By Kelly Grinsteinner
Ask Mary Neuschwander of Hibbing if she’s an experimental gardener, and her answer will be an enthusiastic yes.
“I love trying and learning new ways to garden and harvest crops,” she said.
Neuschwander grew up on a dairy farm in Wadena, Minn. It’s where she got her start at — and still does her — gardening.
“We had a big garden that my mom raised vegetables in for the year,” she explained. “As soon as we were capable, we helped out by weeding, snapping beans, husking corn and shelling peas.”
She also looked up to the prior generation.
“My grandpa inspired me to try raising different things,” she added. “He enjoyed raising flowers.”
Fast forward a few decades, and Neuschwander’s garden is still on the family farm and it remains a group activity.
“I have my summers off, so I go to the family farm that my brother has taken over,” she said. “My brother and I are primarily in charge of the garden, with mom’s supervision.”
On Mother’s Day weekend, whoever is around helps plant the garden.
“Throughout the summer, different siblings and their families come to check out the garden and help with the harvesting of crops,” explained Neuschwander. “In October, everyone can be found at some time picking out their pumpkin for Halloween.”
Yes, gardening is a family affair.
“Even though my siblings have moved away from the farm, sometimes during the season they can be found in the garden,” she said. “They may help with the planting of the garden or harvesting. The nieces and nephews are always eager to find ripe raspberries or strawberries in the patch.”
The garden includes vegetables, a perennial, and a strawberry and a raspberry patch. She also grows annuals.
Coming up this spring will be red poppies and lupine, said Neuschwander. In the fall, she enjoys harvesting strawberries the most.
Working the garden is a task, and it can be taxing. The amount of time she spends in the garden varies according to the season.
“I could spend 18 to 20 hours, depending on the weeding and harvesting that needs to be completed,” she said. “… Keeping the weeds out of my garden is my biggest challenge.”
One day she hopes to cultivate a designed perennial flower garden.
And for those just starting out, here’s her advice: “Do what you are comfortable with. Start small and add plants or enlarge your garden as you get comfortable with what you are doing.”