Get Your Garden Started – With or Without Spring

Connie Kotke found her passion for gardening ten years ago, when she purchased a home with a “wooded” backyard filled with buckthorn. Her labor of love has been clearing and re-establishing a natural habitat in the shade of many hundred-year-old Bur oaks. Her specialty is creating peaceful environments with the right mix of planned and unplanned scenes. She’s an avid reader, writer and professional communicator. As an independent consultant, she’s free to devote time to what she loves the most—getting her hands dirty.

I just finished reading (again) the classic novel, Giants in the Earth, by O. E. Rolvaag. The story recalls the tenacity and courage of Norwegian immigrants who were pioneers on the prairies of Dakota Territory in the mid-1800s. This week, as I snuggled under my quilt and occasionally glanced out the window at the snow and gray skies, I read the chapter about Per Hansa and his family’s first year living in a sod hut. “During the winter, it snowed twice forty days. Day and night the snow fell. From the 15th of October…until after the middle of April, it seldom ceased. And all winter the sun stayed in his house; he crept out only now and then to pack down the snow; that was to make room for more.”

Despite our own long winter, at least we have comfortable homes and warm cars to navigate daily living. By way of this blog post, I vote for a group therapy session to raise our spirits and renew our optimism for the growing season ahead. Let’s get started:

1) Take action! If you’re down in the dumps like so many of us, there’s no better way to lift your spirits than to give back even a sliver of the blessings you enjoy. The week of April 21 – 27 is chock-full of opportunities to brighten someone’s day. Join in with your friends and neighbors to celebrate National Earth Day (Monday, 4/22), National Arbor Day (Friday, 4/26) or National Volunteer Week. Doing even small things will put that smile back on your face. Find ideas at

2) Start planning! Eventually, the last snow drift in the yard will melt away. Is this the year to create an outdoor environment that’s perfect for you and your family? Now’s the time to read, ponder and sketch. Visit these U of M sites for new ideas on

Garden Sculpture – Photo Credit: Connit Kotke

3) Create your shopping list! If tradition holds, mid-May is the time when garden centers really start bustling. Make your first stop the Master Gardeners of Dakota County annual plant sale on Saturday, May 11, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. You’ll enjoy professional advice and plenty of elbow room at the Master Gardener Education and Research Display Garden at UMore Park in Rosemount.

Most importantly, resist the urge to grab your rake and begin the cleanup on our first warm day. Grass, bulbs and perennials are still tender; the soil is too moist; and we run the risk of overnight freezing for several weeks yet. Simply put on your boots, wander the yard, listen to the world waking up, and dream.

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