Garden Programs

Student Gardener Program

Student gardeners with UMN on their backs.Every year, the horticulture department hires two full time undergraduate gardeners to maintain the garden. Student gardeners learn valuable skills such as: pruning, pond maintenance, weed control, pest control, plant and insect identification, food harvesting, and more through a hands-on experience. This opportunity allows students to observe over 100 plant species in their natural environment throughout the growing season, which gives them a deeper understanding of the conditions under which these plants thrive.  The positions typically begin in early May and run through late October.




Native Bee Garden

bee in landscapePlanted in our Native Bee Garden

The University of Minnesota has proudly supported native pollinators through research and restoration projects for many years.  In 2014, the Display and Trial garden joined this mission by establishing a native forage plant habitat for pollinators.

Native plants and insects evolved alongside each other in Minnesota: the plants here provide all of the nectar and pollen necessary for native insects to raise young, while the insects here help propagate the plants and ensure long-term survival.  Among the first visitors to the new garden were many native bee and wasp species.  As the plants become more established in their ecosystem we expect to see native hummingbird, beetle, butterfly, moth, and fly species enjoying this garden as well.

Look to the chart on the right to get ideas for planting your own pollinator habitat.  Be sure to keep in mind flowering time, and pick plants that will ensure constant blooms from early summer to late fall.  Stop by our garden on the St. Paul campus during the growing season if you’d like to ask questions or see a native pollinator habitat in action!


Edible Landscape

map of edible landscape gardenvegetables

This year, the Horticulture Club has adopted the Edible Landscape Demonstration Garden. The garden features many perennials including currants, raspberries, a plum tree, cherry tree, and garden sage. Many annual vegetables, herbs, and flowers, including: tomatoes, peppers, basil, oregano, kale, lettuce, carrots, beans, peas, marigolds, violas, and more, have been planted this year as well. This garden has been designed to show homeowners how edible plants can be incorporated into the garden in an aesthetically pleasing way. The garden is managed organically, with the use of composted manure, companion planting, and organic pest control.  All produce grown in the edible garden this season will be donated to local food shelves or used for the purposes of organic research.



Master Gardener Annual Trials

Extension Master Gardener (EMG) volunteers are naturally inquisitive people and are always interested in the research behind gardening. Each year, EMGs trial annual vegetable and flower seeds in their home gardens and in the gardens at the U of MN.  Results of these trials are compiled and published in the Minnesota State Horticultural Society Northern Gardener magazine. This year, the trial varieties include shasta daisies, white alyssum, herbs for tea (lemon balm, chamomile, hyssop), orange carrots, patio tomatoes, bull’s horn peppers, and yellow squash. Crops will be evaluated for germination, flavor, scent, attractiveness, and overall robustness.  Look for a summary of their results this fall on the Northern Gardener magazine website.


CenUSA Biochar Research: Is Biochar Good for Home Gardens?

biochar signTo answer this question, University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners and Iowa State Master Gardeners are testing the productivity of vegetable and flower gardens amended with biochar at four Minnesota sites and three sites in Iowa from 2012-2015. Funded by the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture, this grant is part of an initiative set forth by the United States government to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and increase local renewable energy. Information about the project can be found at

Like the plot found in the Display and Trial Garden, three other Minnesota demonstration gardens are planted each year with typical garden plants (tomatoes, peppers, zinnias, asparagus, etc.) in plots amended with hardwood biochar the first year of the project. Fertilizer is also added annually based on soil test results. These gardens are planted and maintained each season by teams of Extension Master Gardeners. Plant growth and yield measurements are taken at designated times of the season according to recommended harvest/maturity dates; these results are then compared across the sites to help determine any positive or negative effects of biochar.


Gopher Adventures

Goldy Gopherkids in the gardenGolden gophers are welcome, but only if they’re part of Gopher Adventures in Goldy’s Garden! A partnership of the Department of Youth Sports and Recreation Extension and the Department of Horticultural Science, Gopher Adventures is a summer day camp for kids ages 5-12.  This camp includes physical activities such as “rock climbing and swimming, plus exploration around the campus in a safe and fun environment”.  In Goldy’s Garden, Extension Master Gardener volunteers treat the campers to horticulture education that includes observation of garden ecology and phenology, and hands-on gardening that includes planting potato, flower, and carrot seeds. Each weekly class focuses on a gardening topic including: soil, water, plant physiology, food production, and pollinator protection.  This allows campers to gain a well-rounded appreciation for how plants grow, and how we should care for them and the creatures they support.


City Fresh

photo of garden

teens in garden

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum runs an Urban Garden Youth Employment Program each Summer. City Fresh Veggies is a group of 13 and 14 year old’s who maintain a small vegetable garden in the University of Minnesota’s Display and Trial Garden. They harvest the fruits and flowers they grown and sell them to local restaurants or markets. They learn horticultural, marketing, and teamwork skills through their experiences in the garden.  This year they will be growing fresh herbs, tomatoes, peppers, swiss chard, kale, and cut flowers.


Hydroponic Salad Tables

hydroponic salad table

Urban agriculture can be as close as your balcony!  Come check out Professor Tom Michael’s Hydroponic Salad Tables on the patio of the Display and Trial Garden.

 The Hydroponic Salad Table (HST) is a system for growing salad greens from April through November in a partially sunny 2’x4′ outdoor space.  The word “Hydroponic” in the name signals that it is a soil-less method of growing plants in water supplemented with plant nutrients.  In the HST system salad-green seedlings are germinated in perlite-filled netpots.  After germinating, seedlings are moved to a tank where the netpots hang through a rigid foam lid into a liquid nutrient solution.  The unique feature of the HST is that, unlike most hydroponic systems, it requires no pumps or aeration so no electricity is needed. You never have to stoop or kneel, there are no weeds, and the only maintenance (other than harvesting) is to check the nutrient solution every week or two.

salad binsThe Hydroponic Salad Tables in the display and trial garden are constructed with $30 worth of easily sourced lumber and fasteners.  For minimalists, a bare-bones system can be made very simply by assembling three 10-gallon storage bins, some rigid foam lids, netpots, nutrient solution, and seeds.  Leaf and romaine lettuces, European and Siberian kale, mustard and collard greens, Swiss chard, water cress, pac choi, sorrel, arugula and nasturtium have all been grown together very successfully in this system; this year, Tom has included strawberry seedlings in these tables as well.  Harvest of edible-size leaves begins about 6 weeks after planting and continues for 12 to 15 weeks.  Plant in May, replant in July and you’ll have salad greens all season.  You can even grow greens indoors all winter if you have sufficiently strong grow lights.

More information can be found at the Hydroponic Salad Table website.