Gardens of Eatin’

Home Demonstration Gardens: Summer Vegetables & Herbs

Gardener Ted Pew designs six special gardens for your home. On display at the Arboretum, these gardens give many examples for how you can create your own summer garden in small or large spaces. During the summer months the home demo gardens display many vegetables easy to grow in Minnesota. Ted Pew and his crew will tell you what we are growing and how to take care of it. From watering, weeding, and fertilizing, to harvesting all summer long your gardening skills and your garden will grow along with ours!

What's new with Ted Pew?

We're in full bloom! The Home Demonstration gardens are looking wonderful this week. Most of our vegetables are getting close to harvesting time and our other annuals are looking mighty beautiful this week.

This Wednesday July 26, 2017 the Arboretum is hosting Toast & Taste. Local food, beer, and wine vendors come in and set up tents all around the gardens. Approximately 900 guests come and spend the evening tasting the great food and toasting the great drinks. Toast & Taste is always a fun event but it does require quite a bit of preparation from the grounds crew.

In Home Demo this means blowing the pathways clear, watering everything, weeding every area, and even pulling weeds from between the cracks in the bricks and pavement. This is what we have spent the last week doing, today we are helping set up tables and tents so the vendors can get in and set up. While stressful, I enjoy setting up for these types of events because I get to help the Arboretum look its best and see people enjoy what I spend my time making beautiful! 

Flower Arranging:

At the Arboretum we do not only use our plant outdoors, often we use them indoors as decoration as well. In home demo we have a cutting garden which is meant for creating flower arrangments. Below in the plant lists you may see some plants that are optimal for creating flower arrangments. In this short video Jewel Engstrom teaches how to put together a flower arrangment based on the flowers in the home demo and other cutting gardens at the Arboretum

Home Greenhouse:

In the Home demonstration gardens we also have a small greenhouse. This is an example of some of the cacti or succulents that might do well in a home greenhouse or even in a warm area of your house with high sun.  Some of the plants are useful and fun like agave and aloe plants. 

Sustainably and YOUR home garden:

Gardening plays an important role in sustainablity and environmental efforts. Reducing environmentally wasteful turf space in your yard while producing oxygen and even vegetables is a great reason to start a garden. One of the cheapest and most enjoyable ways to reduce your carbon footprint is to take up gardening. Reducing the size of your grass yard reduces carbon emissions by decreasing the need to mow and can also save water in a dry climate. A home garden can be sustainable by using many farming techniques such as crop rotation, cover crops, and natural pest predators. These three techniques are used often by sustainable farmers to increase yield and reduce the use of fertilizers, pesticides, and the need for carbon releasing tools. Crop rotation enriches soil as different crops require more or less of the different nutrients. Allowing the soil to "rest" season after season with a different crop allows the soil to rejuvinate its nutrient supply. Cover crops can reduce soil eroision, supress weeds, and enhaces soil quality. The idea of cover crops is to plant something in your garden even between seasons. Finally natural pest predators are insects, birds, and spiders that are beneficial to the plant while harmful to the pest. This reduces the need for pesticides and is sustainable because of reproduction. Sustainable gardening is not hard. In home demo we use all of these techniques to increase our vegetable crop yield and present an example of good gardening for your own home garden. Now get gardening!


There are several different kinds of fertilizer we use for the home demo vegetables and the three rose gardens. Most of the vegetable garden gets mixed fertilizer which has several amino acids nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus for example which create a optimal environment for vegetable as it addresses the roots, the shoots (above ground), and the plant as a whole. For our azaleas and rhododendron we use a acid fertilizer, these plants thrive in an acidic environment. For our roses we use both fish emulsion and a nitrogen fertilizer. The Wilson rose garden, the high maintenance roses get the fish emulsion (nitrogen rich) which is a water solution and can be more effective. The Nelson Shrub Rose Garden gets a general nitrogen fertilizer, a pebble-like fertilizer that is sprinkled around the roots.

The good and bad of fertilizers:

example of an algae bloom

example of an algae bloom

Like humans plants need food, their foot comes in the form of amino acids rather than our FDA approved pyramid diet. If your soil is not rich in these naturally it can be highly beneficial to use a fertilizer, different crops like different amino acids and therefore there are a million different products on the market along with homemade fertilizers. Unfortunately fertilizers also can create problems, often fertilizer will run off, particularly fertilizers that are mixed with water previous to use.  When fertilizer ends up in bodies of water they create large algae blooms that overtake lakes, rivers, etc. When these blooms die the decomposition process removes the oxygen from the water creating a "dead zone" where fish either die or move on.

What should you do? Use fertilizers sparingly, if your crops are doing well, don't use them at all. Use rich soil when you are planting to avoid the use of fertilizers. Try not to fertilize near bodies of water. Do your research about what fertilizer is right for your plants and whether or not homemade fertilizers are right for you. 

Square Foot Gardening:

Square foot gardens are what most of our vegetables in the home demonstration gardens used to be planted in. This summer Ted Pew is looking towards more traditional gardening techqniues. Square foot gardening may still work for your home, particularly if you don't have a lot of space to garden! Square foot gardening is one of the easiest forms of vegetable gardening. It is easy to plan and set up and allows us at home demo to show you many different examples for your own garden. Square foot gardening also takes up less space allowing you to keep your lawn but still enjoy a garden. Our square foot gardens are set up in 4x4 plots both in our main vegetable garden and in our garden for small spaces. The squares are separated by white string and the 4x4 plots are separated by stone walk ways. Square foot gardening isn't right for every space but if you want a small organized garden they might be right for you. 

What's in our garden?

This is a partial list of plants in the home demo vegetables gardens. As the summer progresses some of our vegetables ripen and we harvest them. This plant list is the orginal vegetables, herbs, and plants we planted in May and June since then a lot has changed.

Colorful Root Bed:

Carrots: "Snowwhite," "Amarillo," "St. Valery," "Oragon." Onion: "Long Red Florence<" "Yellow of Parma," Crimson Forest," "Alsa Graig." Radish. Turnip: "Boule D'ok'," "Round Red." Potato: "Desiree."

Pizza Bed:

Onion, Tomato "Girraffe," "Ivory Egg." Green Argula: "Erica," "Astro." Garlic

The Salad Garden:

Hot pepper, Lettuce: "Rosa Di Trentio." Radish: "Royal Red." Eggplant: "Clara." Culinary Sage. Onion Chives. Basil: "Eleanora." Tomato: "Black Beauty." Parsley: "Titen." Marigolds. Pencil Pod Garden Bean. Sweet Pepper: "Golden Hearts," "Tollis Sweet Italian."

Rainbow Garden:

Kohkrabi, Collard greens, sunberries, Blues Siruis sage, Basil, Eggplant, Pole Bean, Bell Pepper, Carrot, Parsley: "Giant of Italy." Dinosaur Kale, Bright Yellow Swiss Chard, Parsley "Aragon." Cucumber, Chives, Peppers, Field Corn, Bealara Tropic Lily, Cilantro: "Calypso."


Here's some additional gardening tips from Ted:

  • Watch out for Powdery Mildew: this is a fungi which creates powdery white spots. Host plants are often vegetables, landscape plants, fruit trees, and grapes. To prevent, plant these in full sun with good air flow. There are some chemical control options including: chlorophaniln il, potassium bicarbonate, and sulfur. 
  • Watering: do not use a fixed watering schedule. Use a rain gauge to see how much rain the plants get. Leave time in between watering to allow for draining. Water early in the morning to avoid evaporation. 

 Take a larger look at Ted's garden plot designs.

Peruse these yummy recipes perfect for vegetables from your home garden from Flavors of the Arboretum Cookbook.

Nature Notes Blog 

See Ted's garden plans for the home demonstration vegetable garden above.


For information on where to find plants, gardens, collections and memorials on the Arboretum grounds, plus floor plans of the main Arboretum buildings, click here.