moving to MN from OK

livingforwards(4)October 20, 2012

I'm looking forward to moving to St Paul next summer, but I am totally inexperienced with the growing conditions there. I grew up in England, where I had no trouble growing veg and flowers. I lived in FL and didn't even try to grow anything outside. I've lived in OK since 97 and have planted a wide variety of veg and flowers at several different homes with varying success. The long growing season is great, but the summer heat and drought is crazy.

In MN, what can I grow (veg and flowers) with a reasonable chance of success?

What garden aspects should I be looking for when buying a house? South facing front yards here in OK are difficult to keep anything alive in through the summer, but I figure it'll be a different story 800 miles north. I'd like to grow flowers and evergreen shrubs in the front and veg in the back (like most people!)

Is there a sensible, practical book about MN gardening that will help me adapt and learn new skills to cope with the new location? I bought a book on Oklahoma Gardening here and they listed all kinds of plants that do not thrive here.

In the past I've enjoyed growing lavender and mums as perennials, privet, holly, sunflowers, pumpkins, zucchini, tomatoes, green beans (pole beans?), radishes, carrots. I'm not terribly ambitious, but I really do enjoy a veg garden and flowers. I want to try growing fennel too. I've planted all sorts of things, but between the ice storms, the intense summer heat and the abundant insect life, those are about the only things that worked.

I'm grateful for any advice or links or books that you have so I can have a decent idea of what to anticipate when I get to MN.

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mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

Welcome to the MN forum. There are many plants and trees that grow well in MN. I am including a link to the University of MN Arboretum which will give you many hours of enjoyment reading about gardening in MN.

Here is a link that might be useful: UMN Arboretum

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 4:35PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

Most of MN is zone 4 when it comes to perennials.Lavender and rosemary are not hardy here.
Our frost free dates are generally early-mid May but can come in late May in cool years- and mid to late September or sometimes first frost comes later like early October. The biggest challenge for veggies is that we have such a short spring and fall. It goes cold to hot very quickly!
Like most places you can watch what is blooming to know when to plant things (phenology) and start carrots and peas when the early bulbs bloom. Beans and potatoes when crabapples bloom and dandelions first flush. Tomatoes when lilacs are just finishing up. Then start some frost tolerant veggies for fall in July or early August.

I can't think of a MN gardening book right now.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 10:13PM
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Mums as perennials is a hit-miss item in Minn.
I have some that come back and some that do not. The annoying thing is one that you do not expect to survive sometimes will and one that has been around for awhile suddenly goes belly-up.

Tomatoes will go in later here.

Now you may be running into very dry weather here which is not normal but normally we have very hot summers including sub-tropical conditions we has last year.
This year was hot but not oppressive like last year.

Depending weather you are actually in St.Paul or just its suburbs will make a difference as to your growing season.
The further out from metro centers you get, the colder the climate.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 11:26PM
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hostaholic2 z 4, MN

As far as growing perennials the book Growing Perennials in Cold Climates by Mike Heger and John Whitman is also very helpful. As far as mums in MN it is somewhat iffy though I have some I've had for 25 years so to some degree it's a matter of choosing the right mums and planting them in the right place. They need good winter drainage here. I'm in out state MN and the Mpls./St. Paul area has about 7- 10 days more on each end of the growing season than I do.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 10:03AM
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Thanks everyone! I may just let go of wanting lavender and mums, and learn to love something that is suited to the environment.

We plan to buy a house in the metro area of St Paul.

Do many people use greenhouses? I grew up with them being a standard feature in back yards in the UK, but of course in Oklahoma there aren't any except for commercial nurseries.

I'll ask my fiance (who has already moved to St Paul for his job) to see if he can find the perennials book at the library. Seems unlikely I'd find it here!! We did subscribe to Northern Gardener for the past year, but it seems more ambitious than I can aim for right now. I just want to do some very basic veg and flowers to get my feet wet.

Thanks very much for the welcome and advice. I'll be back with more questions once I've done some reading.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 8:18PM
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mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

Mumstead lavender is hardy here. There are mums that grow well here including Mammoth mums which were developed by the U. They do not need to be pinched and don't need extra care. They can grow huge but dividing them often can keep them smaller. I also plant "hardy garden mums" which last for several years as they are fairly inexpensive and have some nice bloom colors. Asters are great fall plants as well though rabbits are a problem for asters.

Some people have greenhouses but they are not common--too expensive to heat all winter for most of us. Some people put up small temporary greenhouses in the early spring to start their vegetables and/ or annuals and tender perennials.

Most common veggies grow well in MN. I grow all the veggies (and more) that you listed and fennel for the butterflies.

Part of the experience of a new area is experimenting and finding what grows well in your garden.

The thing I look for when house hunting is having the front door and drive facing west/southwest so a light snow and ice melt from the sunlight. I hated the icy steps at our north facing home in southern Mn.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 12:14AM
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west/southest - gotcha. That's really useful to know. I'll make a note of the Mumstead Lavender, thank you!

Yes I'm excited about finding exploring the possibilities of what can be grown etc. I know each neighborhood and garden has microclimates etc to take into account. I'd just rather not repeat a very disappointing few yrs where I couldn't find anything that would grow at one particular house - it was so disheartening after having a beautiful cottage garden in the UK that the whole neighborhood seemed to enjoy.

My fiance is going to pick up the Perennials book at the library for me to read when he visits next month.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 12:42PM
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Munstead lavender.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 11:00AM
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mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

Thanks for the correction. While I know it is Munstead, I keep thinking Mumstead. Maybe I just like the way that sounds and the ease with which it falls from my lips.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 3:48PM
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You were in OK so you may know this but check the wind patterns of where you may live.

It will determine if you have semi-barren wind swept walk or wake up to a five foot high drift the length of the walk.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2012 at 10:59PM
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I will have perennial hardy Sheffield Pink Mums for the Spring 2013 Plant swap, so make sure to check back in the spring for details.

I got a hardy lavender this summer from a trade, heard it is very hardy and it is quite lovely/fragrance; not sure of cultivar.

We have a pretty good pole bean cultivar, so will bring some beans next spring to share. Also fantastic cherry tomatoes too.

MN has lovely bulbs/apple trees that enjoy a nice cold winter. I just made a new iris side garden for all my irises, and I won't have time to finish it this year, but all my iris rhizomes are from trades :)

This is my second winter for bringing indoor my Geraniums - SOUTH facing window light is important for this. Many folks here in MN also bring indoors lots of tropical tubers and plants for storage until spring. I find having a skylight to be great in the winter due to the cloudy days (future home improvement project?).

My other advice is staying away from low flood-able areas, such as by a creek, or bottom of a hill. And be wary about into shoveling snow/ice from sidewalks/steps if you have a slope on your property.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 3:52PM
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spartangardener(z4 MN)

People garden extensively here, and you should find much better soil and more reliable water supply and only a few scorching days here. Even when it's hottest and driest, you can keep plants alive with judicious watering. Downtown st Paul will gain you a zone of winter hardiness and a much later first frost date, most likely. Visit a few locally owned nurseries, and you'll quickly get a sense of what is hardy here. Big box stores carry all sorts of stuff that won't survive because thy're sourced regionally, but several of the local businesses have return guarantees and rely on the customers' good word-of-mouth to stay in business, and as such, won't carry the iffy stuff.

Munstead lavender has been in my yard for nearly 10 y. Bailey nurseries has bred several mop head hydrangeas and shrub roses. There are a number of fantastic June-blooming roses bred by Canadian developers, and crabapples, lilacs, flowering almond, forsythia, some magnolias,peonies and iris make for showy, fragrant springs. The U has developed some stunning azaleas too, and there are Finnish hybrids that do well here with appropriate soil modification.

Summer flowers can be very showy, and choosing low-care or native-related varieties can save you work. Paniculata phlox, heliopsis, helianthus, daylilies, delphiniums and Asian/oriental lilies all make for showy summer gardens.

In fall, my garden is filled with mums, more roses, and tall asters. The
U has developed hardy mums, but I've actually had several of the $3 mums from menards or the parking lot nursery tents survive many winters. The trick is to not cut thm dwn until spring and to make sure they are planted deeply enough to avoid frost heave and early enough to establish a root system in the ground. That can be as late as September 15 in st Paul.

Winter gardening is all about the foliage and seed heads. Conifers, crabapples, rose hips, echinacea seedpods, ornamental grasses, sedum, hydrangea blossoms.... All good stuff outlined against the snow.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 4:07PM
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dandy_line(3B (Brainerd, Mn))

I think you will really enjoy gardening here in Z4 land. You will quickly give up on exotics from Z5+ and settle with what nature provided for us. In fact, what might be a whole new experience for you would be to specialize in native wild flowers for your urban landscape. There are 100;s of different species that thrive here better than anywhere else on earth.
If gardening is going to be one of your main interests, then finding the right home/lot will be important. Be wary of any lot with large overgrown trees like silver maples, cottonwoods, basswoods, or elm. They not only steal all the light, they do the same with the water. Plus, when they eventually die, you have a large expense getting rid of them.
I think you will be really surprised at what can grow here, and grow really well too.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2013 at 7:26PM
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Hi everyone,

I just checked back here because it's nearly time to move (AT LAST!) Gotta remember to look at prevailing wind, slopes, greedy trees when we start house/garden-hunting. I'm not used to snow that stays around. It'll be a steep learning curve I imagine!

I'll be moving to St Paul on July 4th. OK weather is a bit like Twin Cities weather at the moment - nice warm day then snow the next day! However, we're already done with blossom and bulbs. The trees are green, the spring flowers are doing their best despite hailstorms. Another drought is just around the corner and I'm glad I'm getting outa here!

I hope to meet one or two of you in the future as my DF and I get ourselves established with a house and garden. Thanks so much for your welcome :)

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 5:40PM
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