JoAnn Weaver is a retired RN and former multi-term mayor of Breezy Point. She is well-qualified to talk gardening: she grew up in a gardening family from Nebraska, she's been a University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener since 2006 and currently serves as President of Crow Wing Master Gardeners. Additionally she's a Board Member for the Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District.
This Saturday JoAnn is hosting two workshops as part of Back to Basics, Happy Dancing Turtle's one-day annual sustainability event at Pine River-Backus School. Most gardeners enjoy her first topic: "tomatoes." Her second topic--"deer"--causes more ambivalence. Deer are lovely creatures, but they do a lot of damage in northern Minnesota gardens.
Here are a few of JoAnn's tips for "Tomatoes: Seeds to Saucepan"
Select seed or plants appropriate for your northern Minnesota growing zone. Start seed 6-7 weeks before planting date (which is typically May 27th in zone 3b). Build in a week to harden off the plants. Keep them in shade during the hardening off process and bring them in overnight. Once they're used to wind and the outdoors, plant them when the sun isn't blazing down and the soil is warm enough.
Prevention is the key to avoiding blight. Rotate nightshades like tomatoes and potatoes, planting them only one year out of every 3 to 4 (not always easy in a small garden). Water in the morning. Wash hands often while gardening. Mulch plants to prevent dirt splashing on the leaves.
She offers several resources for selecting the "right" tomato: the University of Minnesota Extension website, Cyndi's Catalog of Garden Catalogs, Tomato Dirt, Tomato Bob's Heirloom Tomatoes, Gary Ibsen's Tomato Fest, Tomato Growers Supply Company, and Seed Savers Exchange.
JoAnn will also address deer as garden pests in her workshop "No Deer! Not My Garden Tonight"
Deer can devastate a garden. JoAnn recommends knowing "the enemy" so you can use their own behaviors to thwart them. She advises not feeding deer and laying out the garden in ways deer don't like. Fences help, but check the regs where you live. Deer can jump straight up 8-12' without a running start--that's a mighty tall fence!
Resources JoAnn recommends to learn more about how to avoid damage from deer include: University of Minnesota Extension, Minnesota DNR, Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management, the Best Plants for 30 Tough Sites, 50 Beautiful Deer-Resistant Plants by Ruth Rogers Clausen, The Truth About Garden Remedies by Jeff Gilman, and Deer Proofing Your Yard and Garden by Rhonda Massingham Hart.