On Saturday, June 28, perfectly proper citizens get to peek over the neighbors' garden wall. Or go in through the gate because the organizers of this year's 13th Annual Garden Tour have secured invitations for the lot of you.
Rain or shine, Stepping Stones of Dunn County holds the annual event between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., and you can peek -- even stare -- as long as you like. This is one of the best years ever for the garden tour, say the organizers. Where else would you discover the secret recipe for keeping slugs out of their hosta plants? How can you over-winter that sweet little bunch of rosemary? How do you seed a carpet of moss on the rock wall? This year's gardeners will tell all.
Several gardens will have silent auction items, including a copper trellis, garden charm bracelet from Anshus Jewelers, a framed print by Don Austrum, and more.
From June 25 to June, there will be a garden market at Stepping Stones on Stout Road from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on June 28 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Plants and other garden items will be for sale.
About the garden sites
This year's garden tour features eight outstanding gardens, including two feature gardens-- the Menomonie Community Garden and the Dunn Community Jail Garden.
Fanciful Garden – Lynn and Dennis Hausman (Oakwood Blvd., Menomonie)
The Hausmans combine elements of an English country garden with touches of the Japanese and “Wisconsin wild”. Dennis's garden art and “discovered art” add the “fanciful” part. Beds of hosta and heuchera (coral bells) and other perennials mix with self-sowing annuals, shrubs and trees. Plants here come down from Lynne's grandmother and Dennis's grandparents and an uncle's farm.
Cottage Garden – Maria Peopping (North Shore Drive, Menomonie)
The Peopping garden's European flavor shows influences of German, English and Dutch mixed with Peopping's thrifty habit of salvaging and recycling. She preserves her friendships with their gifts of perennials, and rather than have an old friend plant die, she overwinters it.
Cape Cod Medley (Reunion Garden) – Denny Kropp (Meadow Hill Drive, Menomonie).
The title “medley” covers the mix of perennials and annuals that Kropp has cultivated into an acre of his 12-acre homestead. He's devoted the remaining 11-acre habitat to the birds and the critters and added a path for visitors.
Cottage Garden Gone Native – John and Sherry Cole (410th St., Menomonie).
Native and cultivar plants populate their cottage garden. The Coles' solution to beautify a geothermal heating and cooling system has been to plant grasses and burr oak trees. The hosts will gladly tell stories about their Gettysburg tree, Sherry' experiments and John's orchard.
Farm House Gardens – Pam and Dean Lausted (690th St., Menomonie)
The Lausteds' country garden is folded between farm fields and rolling hills. There perennials, annuals and a vegetable garden thrive, and a raised garden on the patio produces herbs. Butterflies and birds are drawn to the plants and the backyard fountain.
Pollinator Paradise – Chris and Jerry Southworth (821st Ave., Colfax)
Perennials, shrubs and grasses combine with grapevines, and apple and cherry trees as a magnet for pollinators. Old growth oak and pine on the shore of Lake Tainter are part of the Southworths' plan to restore the shoreline to its native state.
Dunn County Jail Garden -- Stokke Parkway, Menomonie
The Jail Garden, as everyone calls it, contributes thousands of pounds of fresh organic produce mostly to the Stepping Stones Food Pantry. In 2012, two years after the garden was begun, volunteers and Huber inmates of the jail donated nearly 600 hours of labor and more than 4,000 pounds of produce. About 90 percent of the yield went to the Food Pantry and the rest was used in the jail kitchen.
The garden is located on an old woodlot behind the Judicial Center that was donated by the county. Old bedding from the fair animal buildings is donated for its composting program and a 6 foot fence is planned for protection from deer.
"The community has been very generous," said Claudia Manning, treasure of the Dunn Community Jail Garden. Over the four years of its existence, the garden has grown to a 22,000 sq.ft. plot that has sprouted apple, plum and cherry trees. This year brings a new water line and its three high-pressure spigots garden along with a drip watering system will boost this year's crop.
This May the garden produced winter onions, rhubarb and asparagus. June brings more variety and heavy production. Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, spinach, lettuces, carrots, beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, all have their place in the garden, and some will find their way to the monthly Stepping Stones cooking class directed by Karen Fritz, UW-Extension.
"This is a win-win-win project,” Manning said. “A win for inmates, for community food donations, and for the county."
Community Garden -- Ninth Street, Menomonie
The two-acre, fenced-in garden area in Phelan Park amounts to a summer-long garden party, with time out for pulling weeds. The fence, explained Mary Lotten, is there to keep deer out of the garden patch -- except for when somebody forgets and leaves the gate open. "We need a new gate," Lotten confessed. "Mr. MacGregor would have had a better gate to keep the rabbits out."
Volunteers from AmeriCorp/VISTA and the community started the seedling of a Community Garden in 2010, and it has grown steadily from 27 plots of the first year to 59 plots this year.
Gardeners share tips and pool their information. Some use companion planting, others just put plants and seeds in the sandy loam." People use all sorts of different methods in their gardens. “We learn from one another. It's that community relation that makes people enjoy their time there," she said.
"We have a lot of first-time gardeners this year -- even older people," Lotten said. A grandmother and her granddaughter tend one plot, families tend other plots and many of the gardeners are college students. "They are into environmental things.”
The season starts with a registration event. This year, Arthur Kneeland, who teaches biology at UW-Stout, introduced gardeners to their soil -- a sandy loam. As the season progresses Master Gardener volunteers Lotten, Deb Wright and Willie Miller are on hand to answer questions.
"We strongly recommend organic methods and we suggest products but we don't require it" she said. As far as rules go: keeping weeds down, using compost appropriately, and using only OMRI rated pesticides are about as far as they go, Ms. Lotten said. But the rules are mostly suggestions because "people are attracted to organic methods."
Gardeners pay $20 for a 20 ft. x 25 ft. plot. Half plots go for less. The fee covers expenses for such things as liability insurance, land rental from the city, water, a cover crop, and the garden's website. The community garden is a three-legged stool of sunshine and summer -- sustainable agriculture, a gathering place, and the legacy of stewardship.
The large number of children involved in the garden this year led Lotten to sponsor a Scarecrow Contest. Garden tour visitors will be treated to see and rate 10 creations the children constructed to frighten crows - choosing the most colorful, most creative, and most likely to scare crows.