• Jenny Hill

The Garden Files: Nettle Tea, Skinks, Strawberries and Asparagus Harvest

Gardening is a complex process. So many variables–plant type, soil health, timing, spacing, companion planting–can contribute to successfully producing fruits or vegetables…and we haven’t even talked about weather!

Cutting nettles with garden shears
Be sure to wear gloves when harvesting nettles.

And while there’s no one-size-fits-all fix to boost seedlings or to fertilize more mature plants, Gardener Dave shared with us one of his “go tos.” And in a happy connection, it’s made from a plant that’s readily available: Nettle Tea, made from stinging nettles.


Gardener Dave shows us the steps to making Nettle Tea in this video:


Here is one of the tomato plants in the Campus Hoop Houses that benefited from the Nettle Tea:


Gardener Dave also discovered skinks living in the Hoop Houses this spring. He was glad to see them as they feast on insects. A skinks menu may include crickets, moths, flies, grubs and caterpillars, grasshoppers, earwigs, slugs and small spiders.


Dave reports he’s seen even more of them as we’ve moved into warmer weather (fun fact: the warmer it is, the faster a skink will run). The prairie skink is found through much of Minnesota, according to the Friends of the Mississippi website. And we are glad to have them in our Hoop Houses!


The North Hoop House is home to strawberries this year. Dave and the rest of the garden crew faithfully removed early flowers when the strawberry plants were planted in the Hoop House in May. According to the University of Minnesota Extension, removing flowers allows plants to produce leaves and roots so that when flowers are pollinated and begin to produce fruit, the plant has enough energy to develop large, juicy berries.


This photos show what the strawberries look like today.


Asparagus is one of the star crops this time of year–the Campus asparagus beds have yielded many pounds of asparagus for the past few weeks and so far show no signs of slowing down. Gardener Dave says he watches for the spears getting narrower as a sign the harvest time is winding down.


The University of Minnesota Extension says the season is 6-8 weeks and ends in late June or early July–depending on the year. “A late spring or more northern latitude may cause the season to start and end later.”


The three signs to stop harvesting include:

  1. Spear growth and emergence has significantly slowed.

  2. Spear width is less than a pencil size.

  3. Heads are ferning out on spears less than six inches tall.


In next week’s blog we’ll feature some asparagus and spinach preserving tips and some recipes for seasonal produce, all from Campus Chef Chris.


Do you have a seasonal garden tip to share? Please respond in the comments!