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Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
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Jackie Clay

Q and A: Low-care gardening, grinding flour, and using oat groats

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Low-care gardening

I just picked up some land this past summer in St. Louis County, Minnesota, which I think is your area. I can’t make it up there very often, but my goal is to try to make it up there once a month. I want to have some food plots growing and I’m looking for things that can grow on their own without a lot of help. I’m thinking potatoes, carrots, and onions. Can you recommend foods that I could plant that wouldn’t need much help?

Edina, Minnesota

We are in St. Louis County, but it’s one of the largest counties in the state, running from Duluth all the way to Canada! Big place — from city to total wilderness. Northern St. Louis County is like a whole other county. The first thing to consider when you are wanting to establish some garden areas is fencing. I guarantee that without it, the deer will clear it out for you. We fence with a 6-foot fence and that keeps them out. Yes, potatoes, carrots, and onions can grow with little help, ONCE they’re weed-free — especially slow-growing carrots and onions that quickly can get overwhelmed by weeds. I’d say that the best way to go is to try to put in some potatoes in one area, then keep the rest tilled all summer to keep any possible weeds killed off before they get started. The next year, you should be able to get the rest of the garden planted, with little competition from weeds. Watering will be a challenge, however. All garden crops need weekly watering if the summer is dry. So going up once a month could be a problem if you have a dry summer. Squash is a crop that is quite forgiving both of lack of watering and weed competition, so you might plant some and see how that does, along with your first crop of potatoes. All gardening does take a little, frequent, care. It’s not hard work, but watering and weeding do need to be done fairly regularly. Let us know how you are progressing with your new land! — Jackie

Grinding flour and using oat groats

In the past year we have grown our own vegetables, made jams and even started to grind out our flour. This brings me to my question. I now use a Kitchen Aid attachment for grinding flour and want to upgrade. I am looking at either a Wondermill or a Nutrimill. I’ve done some research but there are as many opinions as people giving them. Are there any pros & cons that I should look for? Could you tell me which one you would prefer? I want to be sure before spend that amount of money.

Also I can’t seem to find any recipes using oat groats. Can they be used just like wheat berries?

Hampton, New Hampshire

Personally, I like the Nutrimill best. It has low temperature grinding and a covered hopper, plus a lifetime warranty, where the WonderMill has an open hopper and a limited lifetime warranty. I would like one, too, to use as long as we have power (generator gas, solar or wind!) but always want a hand-operated one on hand to use if there is no power available.

Most folks use oat groats either ground coarsely to add to breads or use as cereal or to roll, making rolled oats. — Jackie

4 Responses to “Q and A: Low-care gardening, grinding flour, and using oat groats”

  1. joyce pierce Says:

    we are looking to buy some land in minnesota[wilderness] maybe you might her of some for sale. we want about 100 far lookin on web sites we have not found what we want. any help would be greatly appreciated.

  2. Ellendra Says:

    I’m usually only able to get to my land a few times a year, so I’m experimenting with low-care gardening. So far, other than fruit trees, the only success I’ve had is with pumpkins. Scrape down to bare soil, lay some heavy-duty landscaping fabric down, and let it sit for a few weeks, then cut little holes in the fabric and plant.

    Yes, some will be lost to wildlife. How much depends on how hungry they are and what else is around. Most of the deer on my land prefer the neighbor’s corn field over my pumpkin plants. Other things I’ve tried to grow never make it, but since I’m not there I can’t say if it’s deer or cutworms or lack of rain or what it is that gets them. I’m still working on ways to improve that garden, though.

  3. Whatifitistoday Says:

    Our backwoods property has asparagus, artichokes, and tomatoes that don’t need upkeep. The asparagus we planted near the creek. The artichokes and tomatoes we planted in a garden area. They grow back year after year without any help from us. Our area freezes but doesn’t get hard freezes like you do so I don’t know if it will work for you.

  4. jackie clay Says:


    You might try contacting Bear Island Realty at Ely, MN. They handle a lot of wild northern Minnesota land, including Potlatch timber land up for sale. That’s who we dealt with to buy our last 40 acres. Try BIC Realty in Cook, Mn, too. Dale Lundbad is the agent we dealt with when we bought our original 80 acres. Good luck in your search, but remember winter in Minnesota is really cold and snowy!


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