Order Online

In order to maintain distances as required by the state of South Dakota, Falls Park Farmers Market is offering on-line ordering and drive-by pick-up. Learn more and order at https://www.localline.ca/fpfm 

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Eye Candy

Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

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Apple Of My Eye

Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

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Give It A Whirl

Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

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Pump It Up

Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

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Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

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Hot Potato

Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

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Room For Shrooms

Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

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Pep Up

Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

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Can Do Attitude

Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

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Petal Pushers

Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

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Priceless Heirloom

Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

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Fresh Since 1912

Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

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Nice Melons

Make Falls Park Farmer’s Market your go to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and delicious food. Open this Saturday from 8am to 1pm!

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Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

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Spin Doctor

Make Falls Park Farmer’s Market your go to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and delicious food. Open this Saturday from 8am to 1pm!

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Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

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Foodie Call

Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

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We Got The Beets

Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

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Spring Stalkings

Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

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At the End of Another Wet June

By fallspark, June 28th, 2011 | No Comments »

As did many in our area, I got most of my garden planted late this year, and here we are at the end of June already, with things moving slowly in the yard.  The purslane and thistle are going gangbusters, of course (I have the usual bumper crop)—nothing slows the growth of weeds. In fact, I have an especially ugly variety trying to take over a small perennial bed that closely resemble small trees with stickers everywhere–really ugly and hard to pull.   At least the tomatoes are starting to take off, my two potted peppers are setting a few blossoms, and the pole beans and cucumbers are reaching up to grab the new trellises I am using for my first attempt at growing an a lateral crop.  They are sending out their curly tendrils as anticipated, and if the bugs don’t destroy them, I may have a harvest yet, may have cucumbers just as I finish the last jar of homemade bread and butter pickles put up two seasons ago.  

Still, my Swiss chard is just sitting there, as are the red cabbage plants a daughter gave me, half of a 4-pack she didn’t have the room for herself.  Even the herbs are looking a little disappointed at the lack of warmth and sunlight. I am looking at the extended forecast for this week, and mid-week promises to be something close to normal for this time of year, and although I don’t personally like the heat–don’t care for air-conditioning, I am pulling for the plants just now, and so will welcome it as it comes and bite that seasonal bullet.   

More rain is in the forecast, of course, but I am holding to optimism. I think the old saying “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” is a good one to cling to just now, and it is the anticipation of a warm and dry September that keeps me out there, pulling the weeds from a muddy plot and watching for signs of insects.  I so love that time of year in the yard, that I think I plant my small garden solely in anticipation of of tying up on those cooler nights and warm days full of sunshine, and cans of amber peaches (purchased from somewhere far from South Dakota, of course), pickles and colorful Mason jars of my own “recipe” consisting of oven roasted tomatoes, Anaheim peppers, garlic and sweet onions.  I use the latter in everything from a mild salsa for my breakfast tortilla wraps to a flavorful sauce for baked meats and poultry.  I’ll share the recipe as the tomatoes begin to ripen. 

I am penning this today, as on most Sundays, at my desk at the rear of my home, and even in the temperate mist of this dreary afternoon, there is beauty in the yard.  Since I cannot see the mowed down stubs of the weeds in the lawn, it looks almost pastoral out there, bright green and sloping down to the perennial beds in back.  My neighbors have lovely yards (much nicer than my own at this particular point in time) and I so enjoy seeing the array of roses and clematis they have planted, flowers that unlike my somewhat sickly looking wave petunias, seem to be oblivious to the wet and cooler conditions.   

With married children and grandchildren expected in day to day shifts for visits next week, I am glad to see there are some tomatoes available at the Market, as well as asparagus and rhubarb.  I’ll take full advantage of this as well as pick up some good bread to use throughout the week. 





Rhubarb Recipes

By fallspark, June 12th, 2011 | No Comments »

The rhubarb season was all over the place this year, with some plants going to seed before Memorial Day and others, like my own, just giving me stalks right now.  So it is likely there is still rhubarb to be found at Falls Park Farmers Market and from other sources, as well as any you may have in your freezer. 

The following recipes are offered to expand your own rhubarb repertoire and have been thoroughly tried, tasted and enjoyed. ~ Georgia Totten, Sioux Falls

Rhubarb Meringue Bars

For Crust

1 c. softened butter

2 c. all purpose flour

2 TBS granulated sugar

Cut butter into the flour until fine and press mixture into a 9×13 pan (using a flat-bottom glass dusted in flout makes this easy)

For Filling

6 egg yolks (reserve the whites at room temperature for the meringue)

2 c. granulated sugar

4 TBS. all purpose flour

¼ tsp. salt

1 cup cream

7 c. chopped rhubarb

Beat egg yolks well, beat in sugar, flour and salt, then mix in the cream and rhubarb.  Spread over the crust and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

For Meringue

6 egg whites

¾ c. granulated sugar

2 tsp good vanilla

Dash of salt

Beat egg whites with electric mixer until stiff peaks form.  Add sugar, vanilla and salt.  Spread over baked bars and return to oven just long enough to give the meringue a light brown appearance. 

Note:  It is easier to cut bars as soon as they have cooled so the meringue doesn’t stick to the knife.  Dipping the knife in cold water periodically also eases in cutting.


Rosy Red Rhubarb Cake

½ cup shortening

2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

¼ c. brown sugar

1 egg

¾ c. milk

6 cups finely chopped rhubarb

1 package strawberry gelatin

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and brown sugar in a medium-sized mixing bowl.  Add shortening and cut into the dry mixture until it resembles small peas (as for a pie crust) Add the slightly beaten egg and milk.  Mixture will be thick and moist.

Spread this into a 9×13-inch pan and arrange rhubarb on the mixture.  Sprinkle with the dry gelatin. 


1 ½ c. granulated sugar

½ c. all purpose flour

5 tablespoons softened butter

Mix until fine and crumble and sprinkle over the cake.

Bake at 50 minutes at 350 degrees.


Rice Pudding with Poached Rhubarb

Rice Pudding

1 cup Arborio rice

2 ½ cups whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

½ vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped (or 1 tsp good vanilla extract)

¾ cup granulated sugar

Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil.  Add the rice and cook over high heat for 3 minutes.  Drain the rice and return it to the saucepan.  Add the milk, cream, vanilla bean and seeds.  Bring to a simmer and cook over low heat until the rice is very tender, about 25 minutes.  Stir in the sugar and remove from heat.  Discard the vanilla bean.  Scrape pudding into a 9×13 inch glass dish, pressing a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding (allow it to cool just slightly first) and refrigerate until chilled, about 3 hours.

Poached Rhubarb

3 cups water

2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup dry red wine or rose

2 TBS fresh lemon juice

1 cinnamon stick

½ vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped

1 pound rhubarb, cut into 1 inch lengths

Small mint leaves for garnish are optional

In a large saucepan, combine the water with the sugar, wine, lemon juice cinnamon stick, vanilla bean and seeds.  Bring to a simmer and cook over moderate heat for 10 minutes.  Add the rhubarb and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.  Pour the rhubarb and its poaching liquid into a glass or plastic bowl and refrigerate until chilled, about 3 hours.

Spoon the rice pudding into bowls.  Using a slotted spoon, top with some of the rhubarb, garnish and serve.

Note-The rice pudding and poached rhubarb in its liquid can be made ahead and refrigerated for several days


Rhubarb Bread

1 ½ cup brown sugar, packed

2/3 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

1 cup buttermilk

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups rhubarb pieces (don’t cut too small or they will disappear into the bread)

½ cup chopped nuts, walnuts or pecans

1 TBS softened butter

¼ cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 2 8×4 inch loaf pans. Add the egg, buttermilk, salt, baking soda, vanilla and flour.  Blend until moist.  Fold in the diced rhubarb and chopped nuts and turn batter evenly between pans.  Combine the butter and sugar until crumbly and sprinkle over bread.  Bake for 40-60 minutes until an inserted knife comes out cleanly.  


Sometime around1980, my late father gave me a book called Terrific Tomatoes, written by the editors of an organization called Organic Gardening and Farming.  It has been on a shelf in my home office for roughly thirty years, and although I glanced through it initially, I have to admit that for my past three decades of growing tomatoes, that is where is has remained, unread. It’s not that I had anything close to a lofty attitude about my own knowledge of tomatoes, just more a case of habit.  I just never took the time to do things any differently than I had done in previous years. 

Although I have been gardening for a good while longer than I’ve had that little book, this year I decided I would do things differently, shake things up a bit to see if I could produce a larger harvest by pruning the tomatoes, then staking them to a single post as opposed to my usual operation of letting them grow in the standard cage support.  I got this idea from watching the movie, Driving Miss Daisy some years ago, from the scene where she and Morgan Freeman are tending to some tomato plants behind her house.  It just all seemed so tidy, and that appealed to my sense of order. So I suppose one might say this has been on my garden back burner for a while now.  Additionally, with a limited area of full sun in my yard, I thought this might give me room for an additional plant or two, while still allowing for essential air circulation.  

I realized I needed a little information on how to prune tomatoes, and remembered that book.  So I got it out and perused the table of contents to see if I could find something to address my current need.  Sure enough, there it was, exactly what I was looking for.  Chapter Five, Staking and Pruning, page 73, and a sub-heading that read: determinate and indeterminate varieties-staking vs. not staking-pruning-planting; suckers-tying up plants-stakes-variations of the stake.   Clearly, I still had a thing or two learn about growing tomatoes in this way. 

I learned that the variety, either determinate or indeterminate, refers to the growth habit of the plants.  Determinate varieties are often the early fruiting selections, like Early Girl, and have shorter stems that end in flower clusters.  This growth habit tends to produce bushier plants, and the plant concentrates its energy into the fruit once it is set until it ripens, rather than continuing to grow branches.  Also, the tomatoes are often found lower on the plant, and these don’t always require staking.  The book states that because of this growth pattern, these plants do not respond well to pruning and that it can substantially reduce their yield.

 Indeterminate tomatoes tend to be the later varieties, and will keep growing in all directions, with clusters of fruit continuing on the vine.  These types respond well to both pruning and staking.  These are the monsters that in the past have tended to grow through the chain link fencing and into my neighbor’s yard. 

As to the pruning, there appears to be three approaches to these indeterminate varieties of tomato; one can prune them to a single stem, a double stem, or multiple stems, staking them as they grow.  The book recommends using a kind of figure-eight tie with a soft cloth or similarly gentle material to form a strong support that does not injure the plant.  The pruning method is to pinch off the suckers (or new branch growth) that form in the elbow of the main stems so the plant can put its energy into the forming fruit and less into growing more branches. This will take more work of course, but that’s all part of the experiment.  

This new knowledge makes me glad that I have always purchased a variety of both early and late tomatoes.  I have done this in the past only so that I can keep up with the canning.  This year, I have a good second reason for that practice. 

For anyone who may be interested in the outcome of this experiment, I’ll try to post a few photos of the results as the season progresses. ~Georgia Totten, Sioux Falls

A Social Need

By fallspark, May 29th, 2011 | No Comments »

I was in Minneapolis this week for my grandson’s third birthday party, and on Saturday visited a newly formed farmer’s market on the city’s southwest side.  There were a dozen or so small vendor stands situated in a church parking lot at the corner of Chowen and 49th street, just a few blocks from the trendy 50th and France shopping area.  I actually lived in this neighborhood for a year while working in the cities some time back, and was pleased to see a local market there.   This is something that part of Minneapolis needs.  As is usual for that city, the neighbors are in full support.  Small yard signs advertise its location and its hours, and at a mid-morning hour yesterday, it was very well attended. 
As with our own Falls Park market, the offerings there had the distinctive feel of spring; a bit of rhubarb, lots of jams and plants for sale, and like our market here in Sioux Falls, the smell of baguettes and other baked goods permeated the area (I purchased some of these, and pretty well ate through them on my return drive yesterday).  I attended the Minneapolis market with my daughter and her family, including her in-laws down from Winnipeg, who regretted they were unable to purchase much of what was found for sale there, as many items may not be transported across the US/Canadian border.  Still, they enjoyed the neighborhood experience, noting that most of the people there seemed to be young families with small children.  But along with my white-haired, northern counterparts, I saw an entire neighborhood, young and old alike, dogs on leashes, bicycles parked against trees, and it was apparent from the tables full of coffee sipping locals that this was more than a place to buy herbs on a Saturday morning; it had instantly become a destination site to get out and socialize.
This is something Sioux Falls is nurturing at the Falls Park location, as well. Although I currently travel too much to be considered a weekly regular, when I am in town on the weekend, it is my favorite place to start my Saturday.  I love to grab a coffee and just wander the market, see what that vendors have to offer, enjoy how they intermingle with the shoppers, the scraps of overheard conversation about the weather or different plants, and I never fail to run into people I know. 
In my fifties I belonged to a lot of social and special interest groups, groups at church, book groups, a bunco club and such, sometimes meeting with several of these organizations weekly.  But now, as I begin the decade of winding up my working years, I find I am becoming busier—less time for socializing, and this comes as a surprise.  One tends to consider the years of having grandchildren would indicate a slowing down and needing even more of such activities, but I find I am busier than ever visiting children in different cities, as well as those in town.  I find I am now becoming the other part of that village once said to be needed to raise a family in this busy new century, and am as engaged on my days off as I was when my own family was young.
So for me, as for so many others, the market represents a single destination to fill not only my immediate need for fresh eggs, produce and poultry, but more importantly, a genuine need to stay connected with community, to feel a part of that essential whole.  I continue to be grateful for our own growing Falls Park marketplace for the solid community anchor it has become.  -Georgia Totten, Sioux Falls

A Weed Dilemma

By fallspark, May 22nd, 2011 | No Comments »

With all the recent rain it’s been a real challenge to keep my lawn under control.  You know the drill; you spend an hour mowing then look outside later that same day and wonder why you wasted the time–and the weeds!
My own lawn has been herbicide free for years, so predictably, every spring I fight the battle of the broadleaf, and dandelion is the undisputed king.  I live in an area on the southwest side of Sioux Falls where the neighbors on my side of the street and I have a culverted creek bed behind our backyards that was covered with sod years ago.  Along with my own yard, it is a matching mass of green and a sea of dotted yellow right now.
Not all my neighbors have my broadleaf problem, and I’m not criticizing them for their own sparing use of some herbicide in the lawn.  In fact, I admit I have been tempted to go that route myself, especially this year when I have so many other tasks at hand (old house equals lots of maintenance) telling myself that if I carefully spot treat here and there it will be fine.  But I have this deeply sloping yard, and I often plant produce at the bottom behind my chain link fence, tuck a tomato or two in with the rhubarb and daylilies.  I worry about chemicals draining out with the moisture and contaminating those edibles.  Additionally, I have a young grandson with mild autism, another with asthma, and a granddaughter who struggles with eczema.  Who knows how these chemicals might harm them?  So in the end, I always choose to take a position of caution.  Still, it’s a bit overwhelming. We all like nice-looking lawns. 
A knowledgeable friend mentioned that white clover might be a good, herbicide-free solution, and I’ve been looking into this.  White clover has the tendency to choke out more noxious weeds, and a side benefit is that when in bloom, the honey bees are drawn to it (it is very fragrant) and we all want to do what we can to encourage them to recover from the troubling hive collapse situation. I’ve also read that clover doubles as a kind of rabbit candy—they will eat that before going after your plants. I’ve no proof of that, but if it works even in part it’s worth a try–certainly less disturbing to the neighbors than aiming my high-powered water gun at them (the rabbits, of course) from a spot atop my deck. 
While digging dandelions and biennial thistles is a time consuming task (not to mention back breaking) , the past few years I have been making good use of a handy gadget I bought in Minneapolis some years ago to physically remove them.  I believe it is called a weed or a yard gopher, and it enables you to do this while standing.  Just insert the tines at the bottom around the weed, pull up on the handle and the weed is extracted.  Most dandelions come out with a good part of the root, something that is important to prevent  re-growth, and is so much easier than trying to get a grip on those flat, biennial thistles.  I still remove Canada thistle by hand, as it is easier to pull the entire root out with more of a slow pulling motion.  I’ve been spending a half hour or so each evening doing this, and although I don’t claim my yard will be weed free any time soon, it is working; there is some improvement.  I am hoping if I top dress some good lawn soil and seed in the clover, this will look much better next year.
I am, in fact, reluctant to go back to chemical control for a social reason, as well.  One cannot help but realize that the steady move toward organic farming has spilled over into this area.  Although my lawn is by far one of the worst in my neighborhood, I think my neighbors know I’m trying to keep after the weeds.  I have to wonder if it might not be one day soon that passersby might not cast a sidelong disapproving glance at lush turf and a pristine, weed-free lawn.   This hasn’t happened yet, but I think it’s aroung the corner as we continue our move toward buying local, sustaingability and an environment free of chemical pollution.  ~Georgia Totten, Sioux Falls

One thing I recently purchased that is already making my work in the yard much easier is a simple upright garden cart with a handle and two wheels.  They seem to be widely available in Sioux Falls this season and mine was on sale for around $15, regular price seems closer to $25, although the latter may be a bit larger than the one I found, which is about as big as a kitchen-sized garbage can, lightweight, and a really handy place to toss weeds, or other yard waste.  I even rigged a kind of holder for my clippers and water bottle by tying an old canvas tool holder around the handle (facing it inward so the additional weight doesn’t make it topple backward).  The cart is made of hard plastic–easy to hose down if it gets muddy, and it does.

I have a long sloping yard and much of the landscaping is down hill at the rear perimeter, with a planted area behind the fence.  I’ll readily admit to being a few pounds heavier than I would like to be, and have seasonal asthma, so trekking up to the garage with even a lightweight garbage can or small wheelbarrow–even pulling a child-sized wagon can easily leave me panting.  But the few times I have used this new container, I’ve had no trouble in that way.  It seems to be changing my outdoor life, quite literally, and if you happen to share either of my small afflictions, you may find it so, as well.  Because it is small, it fills fairly quickly, necessitating more frequent trips to the compost pile or waste site in the yard, so I’m getting more exercise.  But because it is so lightweight, I can do this without becoming winded–a huge bonus for someone like me. Even if you are completely fit and find yard work physically easy, why work harder than you have to?  Save that energy for the other tasks we all have this time of year. 

The cart’s uses are multiple and I’ll share here a few that I have already found (or thought of).

  • I plan to keep a bag or two of decorative mulch in the garage, and instead of dragging the heavy bag to the area in need I will fill the cart and wheel it from spot to spot.   
  • As mentioned in an earlier blog entry, as are many urban yards, mine is comprised of hard, compacted soil, and I use a mixture of purchased top soil, peat moss and organic compost as additional “good start” medium for any new plantings (I mix these in a large wheelbarrow that I keep in the garage).  I will fill the cart with the medium and put the potted plants on top to go along. 
  • I will soon be dividing a few perennials and will use this as my collection container.
  •  The cart was utilized this last week to clean up the old daylily debris from last season and it proved a very easy task to simply lift and dump the contents as it became full.   
  • As do many, I seem to have a small collection of those gridded, plastic office containers for storing  this and that, and by securing one to sit atop the cart (a small bungee cord should secure it easily) I will have a handy container for bedding plants with the planting mix in the cart’s bowl. 
  • This also seems a good way to take containers of various bird seed to multiple feeders.   

In fact, I am so happy with this new cart that I may buy a second one just for mulch.    

On an unrelated note, a word of caution is offered to anyone shopping for perennial plants.  I’ve noticed in several local plant shops roses that are not hardy for our area, mostly carpet roses, and this includes some of the Knock Out varieties.  Although one chain store had these clearly labeled, others did not.  One simply has to check the label to see that some are only cold tolerant to -10 below zero.  Given mild winters here, those might survive, but I wouldn’t want to chance it.  I know the roses at the market, as well as other perennials, will be well suited to our colder winters here.  ~Georgia Totten, Sioux Falls


Springtime Stalker

By fallspark, May 16th, 2011 | No Comments »

By Jim Mathis

According to the calendar and the television weathermen with freakishly perfect hair, the first day of spring (or the vernal equinox, as they pompously refer to it) happened on March 21. But as I recall, it was a cool and dreary day here in the Sioux Empire. It certainly wasn’t a day that screamed “spring!”

As far as I’m concerned, the first signs of spring have little to do with dates on the calendar or seeing the first robin of the New Year; to me the season begins when the first tender stalks of asparagus push through the newly thawed ground. I will be there in the early morning hours of the farmer’s markets looking for the first harvests. Then and only then will it truly feel like spring.

I know people who travel the back-roads and byways to carefully protected and undisclosed locations each spring to pick stalks that grow in ditches and around abandoned farm houses. Armed with a pair of garden shears, a plastic bag and a good sense of direction (or a maybe a GPS) they return each year to clip their prize. Although I really like asparagus, I have never been lucky enough to stumble upon one of these hidden patches of green goodness. And those who know the location of the growths aren’t sharing. Alas, I have to either count on their over-abundance or the farmer’s market.

Once you’ve located fresh, tender asparagus, it is versatile, easy to prepare and the humble stems can brighten up anything from salads to pastas to risottos. The most common preparation is steaming gently; the kitchen supply stores will even sell you a special tall, skinny pot made just to steam the spears while keeping the tops out of the water. But since spring also brings the beginning of grilling season, that’s where much of my mine will be cooked.

Asparagus, when steamed or lightly stir-fried, has a sweet and grassy taste. But roast or grill those same spears and the flavor becomes much richer and nuttier. Just be careful not to let them get too charred or they get a little bitter. My all time favorite is to wrap bundles of asparagus in thinly-sliced prosciutto. If they are pencil-thin, I’ll put 5 or 6 in a bundle, if thicker I’ll wrap 3 stalks at a time. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on some fresh-cracked pepper (the prosciutto brings the salt) then grill for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. If you do it right, the bundles will stand up like proud little soldiers on the edge of the plate. And that, in my humble opinion, is just about as good as a vegetable ever gets.

We must enjoy the sweet stalks of spring while we can. The local asparagus will be around for just about six weeks before it fades from the stores and markets, only to be replaced by bundles from far away lands. But once spring gives way to summer we’ll turn our attention to the tomatoes and sweet corn that thrive in the summer heat, and while those are great, I’m beginning to miss spring already.

Do yourself a favor, eat something good today!

If you’re willing to share the secret location of your asparagus patch, Jim can usually be found at ADwërks, an ad agency he owns in Uptown Sioux Falls. (This article originally appeared in Etc for her magazine is used with permission.)

“… a flask of perfume.”

A flowering perennial, asparagus is a cousin of onions and garlic. And while the onions make you cry and the garlic will give you foul breath, asparagus has its own downfall; it makes your pee smell funny. Some claim it doesn’t affect them, but scientific studies have shown it happens to all of us (some just can’t smell it). My parents thought I was nuts when I mentioned it, but my sister backed me up. So much for the scent and sensitivity being genetic.

At first I thought it was just me. And I was more than a little concerned that the odor was sign that something was very wrong inside me. That is until the so-called Naked Chef Jamie Oliver mentioned it on TV. Aha! I thought; I am not alone. Not alone indeed. A little research uncovered an abundance of references in science and literature. French novelist Marcel Proust once wrote that the vegetable “transforms my chamber-pot into a flask of perfume.” I wouldn’t call it perfume, but Proust was known to be a bit flowery.

If you think, like I did, that perhaps your kidneys were failing and you might have only hours to live, it’s probably just a sign that you have a good sense of smell and you’re a good person who ate their vegetables. Or you’re a hypochondriac. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, is there?


Jumping the Gun

By fallspark, May 4th, 2011 | No Comments »

Shortly after rising on Saturday morning I noticed the gutter atop my garage wasn’t draining properly, and after poking at its ground level joint failed to repair the situation, I got out the step ladder, but then put it away, fearing a strong gust of wind would knock me down.  I’m no spring chicken, and notwithstanding, a broken bone is never an appealing thought.  Some short time later I opened an email from one of the Market vendors with an attached photo showing her reaching across her hoop house, balanced on the end of large hoist arm, patching a hole there, likely damage from the same weekend wind.  That image was enough to send be right back outdoors, and my gutter was soon unclogged and draining nicely. 

After twenty-four hours of sustained, storm-force wind, anyone who lives on the plains begins to understand a little known condition rarely mentioned outside of a classic American novel or two, wherein you think you’re going to lose your mind if the constancy of it doesn’t stop.  Sometime in the night over the weekend, I awoke to hear my old split foyer house literally creaking in long-sustained gusts that surely peaked over fifty mph.  The gutter outside my window began to whistle and vibrate, and at one point I actually got out of bed and walked around inside, shining a spotlight out the windows to see if the trees were still standing.  I also closed the bedroom window, as Saturday’s sixty degree temperatures had by that hour, plummeted to near freezing.  Fearful as I was for some spikes and asparagus ferns I had purchased at one of the big box stores on Saturday, I just didn’t have the fortitude to step out onto the maelstrom of my back deck to pull them into the fifty-five degree safety of my kitchen, reasoning that any damage had already been done.  Fortunately, the wind kept frost from forming.  I think they will survive.   

So Sunday was May Day, my oldest daughter’s forty-first birthday, and a frosty one it was.  The day before, her youngest, my Saturday companion, seven-y ear-old Piper and I potted what look like violas, delicate little blooms of violet and yellow that spent the blustery night indoors on my western windowsill.  We will give these as a birthday gift, as well as May Day tokens to some of the neighbors a bit later on.  At 8:45 on Sunday, it was still blowing pretty hard out there, so we had no choice but to protect them in sturdy brown bags for delivery– no ring the bell and run as in years past.  As we perused the nearby garden areas together on Saturday, searching for our plants, I was tempted to grab a cart or a box and just start loading up with flowers, loading up early vegetables in pots. I guess we stopped at four different stores and each had those selections for sale.  

Last year I purchased six Walls-of-Water on line, but I have yet to use them. Readers may be more familiar with these than I.  One fills them with water and allows the sun to warm them so plants are protected from overnight cold.  They are supposed to enable tender vegetables like tomatoes and peppers to be set out weeks earlier than recommended.  My late father swore by them for use in Indiana, and he was growing great tomatoes right up to the age of ninety.  Of course, he didn’t have to worry about them blowing across the fence into the neighbor’s yard.  Even so, perhaps I’ll get them out and give them a look this week. 

On can certainly do flowers this early, and I did see several shoppers buying these in great number.   As do many others, I keep a handy supply of old sheets, former shower curtains and similar coverings in a box in the garage for use on cold nights at both ends of the growing season.  Up north here, one has to be prepared to act quickly and not be taken unawares, something that is so easy to do as April turns the corner into May, much as I did Saturday evening. 

I tend to keep my large planters on wheels so they can be easily wheeled in and out of the warmer garage or in smaller, more manageable pots on the deck that may be easily brought indoors.  I find using former soft drink bottles in the bottom is a good trick, making them both lighter and hence easier to manage, as well as allowing one to use less planting medium (I’ve heard the use of Styrofoam packing peanuts is another good choice, but just try to clean them up when you want to empty the containers; they blow everywhere.  And a note to first time container gardeners, you wouldn’t want to do this when planting vegetables in pots, as they require all that room for their deeper root systems). 

If using covers for early flower plantings, one also has to rig up some kind of support so the covers don’t flatten the plants, and also be available the next day to uncover them as the temperature warms, and this can be a problem if you have to leave for work prior to that time.  Appealing to retired neighbors for help is one solution I have found. 

However, this year, instead of jumping the gun with all of this, I will wait until after the Market’s first weeks before purchasing my vegetable starts and most of my flowers; see what plants they have to offer this year and have the opportunity to visit with some people who likely know a lot more than me. The big box stores have a few nice deals, and their arrays are very tempting, but I’ve never been let down with a Market purchase. They do seem to be well suited for our growing conditions, and sure enough, I have learned from past years that if I run out and fill up on early bargains, I’ll regret my hasty decisions after I see what our local vendors have for sale. 

Again, as a Friend of the Falls Park Farmer’s Market, I’ll be there this coming Saturday for opening day at the conversation table from 9-11A.M., and look forward to meeting other people who like me, just can’ wait to get that first bit of dirt under their nails.  ~Georgia Totten-Sioux Falls

Thoughts on Urban Soil

By fallspark, April 25th, 2011 | No Comments »

I just returned from a weeklong visit with my son and his family in Sacramento, CA. and spring is in full abundance there. Walking around their neighborhood often found me biting at my thumb on more than one occasion, as I admired a miasmic array of flowering shrubs, climbing roses and other tender perennials, plants I knew would never stand a chance of surviving in our bitter winters here.  Still, because my son is working on the final stages of landscaping his back yard, I continued my usual practice of taking notes about the different plants I saw there, asked questions if I found anyone in the yards.  Good way to get to know the neighbors there and find out what plants are drought resistant for that area.

We visited a new garden shop he had been eyeing for a few weeks, one reputed to carry a good selection of indigenous plants, and got some great ideas, specifically a shrub commonly called “Pink Lady,” one often found in business parks and other areas where maintenance can be sporadic.  These shrubs are a showy explosion of pale pink in the spring, have pleasing green and red foliage the rest of the year, no thorns or prickly tips and so are a good choice for his young family.  These also seemed a good fit for his large backyard and a nice accent to the established yuccas and palms that are already there.  Here, as well as in Sacramento, it is pretty well accepted that local plant varieties are usually the best recipe for success, and hard as it is to ignore all the email offerings for exotic lilies and such, I have also found local varieties to be my own best options.

As my plane cut below the heavy cover and landed in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul airport on Friday, the dismal sight there of rain and wind initially cast a sullen mood over my return, but as I drove the short distance with my daughter for my overnight stay, prior to driving back to Sioux Falls yesterday, I also realized that the time was just right for my annual preparation of the planting beds in my yard.  The four hour drive was perfect for that planning.

One thing I found my children in California have in common with many urban dwellers, including me, whether they live in the Sacramento area or right here on the windy plains, is that we both have to contend with poor soil conditions.  Theirs is hard, red clay that quickly bakes to the consistency of pottery in the extreme summer heat there, and mine is simply poor, clay-based subsoil that was left after the topsoil from my yard was removed when the house was built around 1975.  This soil situation is something that took me a good twenty-five years to realize, but once that hard lesson was learned, my gardening efforts found fruition.

I won’t claim to completely understand why contractors strip the soil from new home sites (although there are others who are well versed about this subject) but most homes built after 1950 have this problem, and one should be aware that the practice is common here.  Although some topsoil is returned upon completion of the home, in most areas it is only a scant amount, barely enough to support a lawn.  Trees, even perennial shrubs have little chance of thriving in it.  One has to be aware that the lovely black topping on your new lawn is little more than that, and be prepared to act accordingly.

For several decades I struggled to amend what I knew appeared to be poor, clay soil, adding compost and peat to large areas.  But despite my continued efforts, the soil remained hard and drained poorly—I just couldn’t add enough matter to make a difference.  Topsoil acts something akin to a natural sponge, and in its absence, water runs off into the storm sewer or just sits in pools of sodden clay and drowns everything planted there.  After year upon year of adding all the organic matter I could find, my results remained stunted. Had I know what the problem really was, I might have been spared a great deal of backbreaking work, not to mention the frustration and expense of quite a few wasted plantings.

In short, I finally stopped trying to amend the soil in the large areas, using this technique only for planting individual perennials, digging the planting holes much wider and deeper than called for, and simply backfilling them with equal pats of purchased topsoil, compost and peat moss mixed together.  This mixture seems to work well and at least gives the plants a fighting start, something to run their roots through to get established.  Raised beds have also been a godsend, and a convenient place to blow all the mulched leaves each fall.  I just keep feeding the same smaller areas with this and other organic matter, and have finally been rewarded with good results.

Now is a good time to lay that essential foundation, and there are several books I know of (and many more I haven’t yet read, I’m sure) that give some really excellent suggestions.  All New Square Foot Gardening, by Mel Bartholomew is a proven winner in its raised bed philosophy, giving clear and easy to understand directions for growing a good amount of flowers and produce in small areas.  A second is Lasagna Gardening, by Patricia Lanza.  Ms. Lanza’s approach of layering organic matter without all of that mixing offers a good alternative for those garden enthusiasts like me, who have put away the pitchfork, but still want a strong soil to work with.  Both come highly recommended, provide really interesting reading and are available in paperback.  I have tried both methods mentioned, and they work.

Finally, it wouldn’t be spring without the return of our county extension show, Garden Line, which begins its 2011 season this coming Tuesday at 7PM on PBS.  Over the years, I have learned so much from this very informative show, all about growing things in our area, tips on pest control, good plant varieties and other timely topics.  Call or email in your questions, and they will answer them on the air.

As a friend of the Falls Park Farmers Market, I’ll be sitting at the table on opening day from 9-11AM, rain or shine, to share what works for me, and hopefully to learn what has worked for others, as well.  Come join us at the market on Saturday, May 7th and share your ideas on soil, and all things growing.

Georgia Totten-Sioux Falls

Fire in the Garlic Patch

By fallspark, April 24th, 2011 | No Comments »

Do you want to hear about my ‘ big boo-boo’?  Here goes . . .

Back in February Henry took me to a veggie conference put on by various horticulture departments.  I went to all the variety trial seminars, etc., but what was Henry supposed to do?  So he went to the equipment-type talks and we are now the proud owners of a Glazer wheel hoe, a collinear hoe, a long-handled wire weeder, and a flame weeder.

It’s not your normal, buy- it-at-Campbell’s Supply-flame weeder; but a five-burner, 500 BTU’s each, 34” wide, with a special 10# propane tank, carry-it-in-your-backpack flame weeder.

It was one of those ‘I’ve a ton of things to do today before it rains’ days; what should I do first?  Alissa was weeding her iris so I offered my help.  Innocent enough, right?

“Hey, Lissy!  Let’s try our new flamer!”  We put it all together, hauled it out to the garden, shouldered the backpack, turned on the gas, lit the burners, and off I went.  Few little fires here and there as leaves and thatch caught, but Alissa was there and she stomped them out.  Not a big deal.

“I’m going to burn around the Hill Garden.”

“Well, I’m not going to follow you around all day!  Put out your own fires.”

Still not a big deal.  Burnt the north side, no problem.  Burnt the west side, still no problem.  Started on the south side along the shallots and garlic.  No big deal.  I was working backwards; steers better that way.  There were little mounds of straw mulch that we’d removed from the rows.  I’d kick it out of the way and continue on my way.

Well, somehow, one piece of straw caught fire and led to another piece of straw and somehow as I kicked straw out of the way, I must have kicked burning straw into the garden onto a whole row of straw.  Suddenly I was surrounded in fire!

“LISSY!  HELP!!!!!!!!!!”

We’re both stomping as fast as we can but it’s windy!  And the fire is growing.

“Get some spades!”

She runs!  She comes running back.  We pound and stomp.  The fire grows!

“Mom!  We gotta call the fire department!”

“Work!  We can get it out!”  (We’ve started lots of fires in the past, had a few close calls but we’ve always gotten them out.)

“NO!   It’s growing and we can’t get it out!  We HAVE to call them.”

“You call them!”  She runs to the house.  (Remember; young, skinny girls can run!)

“The garden’s on fire.  We need a fire truck!”

“What’s on fire?”

“The garden!”

“The garden?”

“The STRAW in the garden!”

Josh and Rick are working in Hawarden and they hear the page:  “Fire department needed at Henry Kattenberg, 2710 Hickory.  The straw in the garden is on fire.”

“Do you think Mom was so stupid to play with that torch thing Dad bought her on such a windy day?”  (Naw!)

I’m still stomping and smashing flames.  The black plastic mulch disappears before my eyes.  The beautiful shallot and garlic plants just seem to melt.  I’d drag straw back and try to make a break of soil but the wind fanned the flames so fast that sometimes I’d be pulling burning straw onto good straw.  Many times my jeans were so hot I’d look to see if they were burning.  My forehead felt scorched.

When are the fire fighters ever going to get here?  Even while fighting the fire, one eye is on the road, longing for the fire truck.  There’s the veterinarian, the mail man, another car, a pickup.  No fire truck.

Finally, mentally I gave up the bottom half of the garden and started to pitch good straw into the fire.  (I’m shaking while I write this.  Yaa, I’ve had three cups of coffee this morning but it was scary!)  The wind would pick up bunches of burning straw and roll it along to a new section and up would go the flames again.

Lissy comes running back out.  She grabs some hose and gets it half way to the garden.  Doesn’t reach.

“MOM!  Move the propane tank!”

She runs off to the greenhouse to disconnect that hose and starts to haul it up.

‘Move the propane tank . . . move the propane tank . . .  Oh . . . I better not let the fire fighters see how I started this fire.  Ok . . . ok . . .  I’ll drag it out of here.’  I pick it all up and try to run.  I’m not young and I’m not skinny and it’s heavy.  I lumber along.  ‘Where to put it  . . . where to put it . . .  can’t let them see how I started this fire . . . under the overhang . . . .  no . . . there’ll be guys all over when they get here.’  Lumber, lumber to the other side of the house.  ‘Window wells . . .  I’ll dump it in the window well.  They won’t see it there!’

I grab the other end of the hose and start pulling.  Huff, huff, puff, puff.  It reaches!  Lissy gets it connected.  Turn the water on.  Is that all the water that comes out of a hose?  When are they ever going to get here?

We’re making progress.  We’ve got the fire contained to the bottom half.

“Mom, (puff, puff) let’s cancel the fire call.”

“Ok, ok . . . you go call.”

“I AM NOT CALLING!  YOU go call!”

“Ok, ok.”  Lumber, lumber.   Huff.  Puff.  “This is Harriet puff Kattenberg.  We’ve got the puff fire under puff control and don’t need puff the fire truck puff anymore.”

“You have the fire under control?  Are you sure?”

“Yes, (puff, puff) we should be ok.”

“Well, they are only two miles away.  I don’t think I can turn them back anymore.”

Lumber, lumber . . . back to the garden.  Lissy flops down onto some good straw.  “I can’t get my breath.  My chest hurts.”

All of a sudden, HERE THEY COME!  And they come and they come.  One truck after another!

Now you have to picture what the firemen see.  They come be-bopping over the hill.  There’s the place of the call.  There’s a little black patch in a sea of green.  One person is lying on some nice yellow straw.  One person is standing there with a garden hose, sprinkling some little wisps of smoke.  They slow the rigs down.  They come crawling past.

Their eyes are searching for fire.  Finally I give this little limp wave.  Maybe they’ll just go away?

Nope, they turn on the driveway.  The fire truck, the rescue truck, the water truck, the patrol man, the ambulance . . . I just can’t look!

“Lissa!  Get up!  Don’t let them see you lie there!”

“Mom, don’t you think you better go talk to the men?”

The guys are getting out of the trucks.  Some are completely suited up in fire fighting gear.  I walk across the lawn.  All eyes are looking at me.  (I’m glad I put on a clean shirt this morning!)  What must I say?  How embarrassing!

I slap my hands to my cheeks.  “That was scary!”

They just look at me!

(Uuuummm . . .)  “It sure takes you guys along time to get here!”  (Awk!  I didn’t say that, did I?)

“Don’t need us?”

“Nope, we’re ok.”

They quietly turn and get into their trucks, turn the rigs around and go back to town.

More equipment is parked on the road and these guys cut through the orchard to the garden.  I walk back out there.  My mouth is so dry and now more eyes.

Hands to cheeks.  “That was scary!”

They smile.

“It sure takes you guys a long time to get here!”  (Awk!  I said it again.  How awful!)

“When we hear ‘grass fire’ we run!”  (Oh!)

“Do you think my garlic will grow back?”

“Knowing garlic, it probably will.”  And they head back to their rigs.

That night when the boys came home they gave me lots of hassle.  “Mom, how could you call off the fire fighters?  That’s mean!  You should have let the garden burn.  You really deprived those men.  They ARE fire fighters after all.  They get a call and their adrenaline is pumping.  They drop their work; they’re going to a fire!  And here you put it out before they can get there.  What a let down!”

“There’s something even worse.  I told them it took them along time to get here.  I can’t believe I said something so mean!”

“Their response time was ten minutes.  That’s pretty good.  They have to get into their vehicles, drive across town, get the rigs running, and drive out five miles.  Actually they made really good time.”

Fire is an amazing creature.  It is all powerful.  You have no control over it.  And when it’s out, there’s nothing left to show for its power; a bit of black ash that will disappear in the first rain.

Alissa and I are still shaking our heads that we panicked like we did.  In the large picture of things, that fire wasn’t going anywhere.  Everything is green.  Besides Henry had told me last fall already not to plant ALL the garlic on black plastic mulch but just try SOME.  Well, now half is on plastic and half isn’t.  (And I didn’t even apply for a grant to run these trials.)

Besides, I probably don’t need 1552 shallots or 984 garlic anyway!

Harriet Kattenberg (Hull, Iowa)