The first step to a great garden is inspiration, and you can find 1,200 acres of nature’s finest at the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Voted “Best Botanical Garden” in the nation in 2017 and 2019 by USA Today readers, the arboretum features specialty gardens, demonstration areas, and more than 5,000 plant species and varieties with plant labels designed to inspire ideas for visitors’ own backyards. Just a 20-minute drive from Minneapolis, the arboretum also offers events and classes on gardening and more.
Planning your garden
Now that you’re inspired, it’s time to spend a little time in your yard, watching where the sun falls and discovering where to place your little slice of future food (or flowers). But before starting any yard or garden project, it’s recommended that you have your soil tested—and the U of M Soil Testing Lab is the place! They’ll let you know if your soil needs added nutrients depending on what you want to plant, so that you can get the best out of the ground you have and manage that soil through composting, fertilizer, or other means. And don’t worry—if you’re gardening in the shade, U of M Extension has you covered with tips for success.
What and when to plant
Speaking of what to plant, U of M Extension has recommendations for the best plants and gardening practices for growing not just amazing gardens, but healthy lawns and landscapes too! Extension offers guides to planting, growing, and caring for all kinds of plants year-round, as well as recommended timing to grow great flower and vegetable gardens. And don’t forget to check the latest Minnesota winners of the Master Gardener Seed Trials on the vegetables and flowers that will give you the best return on your investment.
Weeds, disease, and insects
If at any point your garden starts to look grim, do not fear—the U of M has the tools to guide you through diagnosing a plant problem or identifying a weed or insect. With solutions to questions like “What’s wrong with my plant?” “Is this plant a weed?” and “What insect is this?” you’ll have a no problem tackling whatever nature throws at you. And if you can’t find the solution on your own, just ask a Master Gardener!
Harvesting and storing your bounty
The moment you’ve been waiting for has arrived. The only thing more satisfying than harvesting the fresh fruits and vegetables you’ve grown yourself is eating them! Extension has everything you need to make the best of your garden, from food preservation basics, to making jams, to harvesting and storing vegetables—asparagus to watermelon.
Going pro and giving back
Ready to take it to the next level? Why not become a Master Gardener volunteer? Don’t be frightened! You don’t need a master’s degree—just a passion for volunteering in your community to promote healthy landscapes, healthy people, and a healthy planet. The University of Minnesota has trained thousands of Master Gardeners, who each year contribute more than 140,000 hours of service in Minnesota communities. And it doesn’t take much to get started—just 48 hours of education, plus 50 hours of training, and then 25 hours each year thereafter.