As Minnesotans continue to wrestle with the coronavirus pandemic, many may decide that now is the time to finally focus on creating or further developing a garden. After all, gardens are a safe place to keep your distance, while enjoying the great outdoors, growing beautiful spaces and setting the table with the fruits of your labor. I’ve been gardening and cooking all my life, a skill my grandparents instilled in me as a young child. As an adult, I now get it: The power of gardening and all it delivers is immeasurable. Toiling in the garden reduces stress and anxiety, builds character and is physically beneficial – something we all could use right now. But, more than anything, gardening is fulfilling –  especially when you can share the love with family and friends.

I am so happy to share this with you, hoping to inspire and empower you to grab some seeds and a shovel to plant hope in your backyard or in a container. My easy step-by-step approach simplifies gardening in a way that makes “cents!” Trust me, once you sink your teeth into a homegrown, just-picked, sun-warmed tomato, you’ll be sold.

Join me as we celebrate a revival in the backyard. To get you started, I’ve offered up a few tips, as well as some suggestions about what to plant at different times of the season.

Top 10 tips for starting a garden

1. Start small. Cultivate your gardening process one year so you can refine it the next.

2. Location, location, location. Pick an area with 8 to 10 hours of sun a day.

3. Consider planting your garden near a water source so that it’s easier to tend.

4. Feed the soil. There are three magic ingredients: peat moss, compost and manure. Spread amendments on top of the soil and mix them in.

5. Know your area’s last date of frost. In the Minneapolis area that’s typically around April 30th.

6. When planting seeds, bury them 2 to 3 times as deep as the diameter of the seed. Simply press the tiny seeds into the soil.

7. Cool season crops such as radishes, beets or onions can be planted before the last frost; and warm season crops such as tomatoes, peppers or corn can be seeded after the last frost.

8. When planting transplants, gently detangle the rootball and plant the crop as deep as it was in the container.

9. Water your garden when the soil is dry. Wet gardens will rot seeds and plants.

10. Weed early and often – otherwise, they’ll rob crops of water and nutrients.

A note about cold season vs warm season crops

Cool-season crops can be planted when the soil and air temperatures are cool, as low as 40ºF (5ºC). Examples include: asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, chives, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, onions, parsley, peas, radishes, rhubarb, rutabaga, spinach, and turnip, endive, lettuce, parsnips, potatoes, salsify, sorrel and hardy herbs.

Warm-season crops prefer daytime temperatures of 60ºF or warmer. These crops should not be sown in the garden until the date of the average last spring frost. Examples include: beans, sweet corn, cucumbers, New Zealand spinach, summer squash, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash and pumpkins.

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If you’re feeling pretty serious about tending to your yard and gardens due to a little extra time on your hands, put down the rake and read this before you head outside.

It’s  one of the most recognized spots in the Twin Cities and this year marks 30 years since the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden first wowed visitors. Since it opened, nearly 10 million people have paid a visit to the 12-acre park located in the heart of Minneapolis. While the Walker Art Center is currently closed due to COVID-19, the Sculpture Garden is open. If visiting a garden instead of planting one is more your speed, then discover more about this iconic outdoor wonderland.