10 Steps to a Successful Vegetable Garden in Northern Minnesota



I’ve always enjoyed gardening but I especially enjoy it in Northern Minnesota.  The weather is much more pleasant then it was in Tennessee and even though the season is technically shorter, the long days ensure beautiful vegetables.  I will say it was a bit of a surprise to find out that most folks don’t put anything in the ground until June 1st.  Heck, in the south, we were planting in February some years.  


I had a nice garden last year.  Rented a tiller and put in a nice, new garden spot.  And, while my veggies did relatively well, it still took time for the soil to warm enough to get the plants a really great start.  This year I’ve decided to do raised beds.  This option will give me better control of what’s happening to my soil, water, and plants.  


To get you started on your new Minnesota Vegetable Garden, here are 10 steps to a successful vegetable garden:


  • Plan on Paper First:  grab a piece of paper and simply draw out what you’d like your garden to look like, where you’d put different veggies, and determine how much space you’ll need. This is always fun for me.  I can start to visualize what my garden will look like.
  • Site Selection & Prep:  Check out your property and decide where you will put your garden. Take into consideration sunlight, what the soil is like, and will you need to protect it from the “critters” that love a free meal.
  • Soil Test:  Once you’ve determined the site and unless you are doing raised beds, do a soil sample test. (The University of Minnesota can run the test for you).  A soil test is an inexpensive way to determine what your soil is lacking.  Once you have this information, you can add to the soil to make it prime planting soil.
  • Veggie Selection:  So you have your garden spot, you’ve tested and prepared the soil, now you need to decide which vegetables you want to plant.  Get pretty specific here and be sure to ask if the specific variety you want will grow well in Northern Minnesota.  Let’s face it, not everything grows well up here.  But the good news is that there is plenty that does.  (I had the best carrots every last year because of the variety I researched and selected)
  • Planting:  When I moved up here, I was told my several neighbors “do NOT put anything in the grown before June 1st”. It’s a good rule to go by.  You can start plants inside in a sunny window or under a grow light, but wait until June 1st to put them in the ground outside.  Also consider staggering your planting so you have a longer harvest time. For example, don’t plant all of your radish seeds at once.  Plants some and then plant some again in 2 weeks.  
  • Nutrients:  Even though you’ve tested your soil and made sure it was ready, don’t forget to feed your plants.  I keep a little notebook in my garden shed with details of each veggie I’ve planted.  Some need more food than others, some more water....by using my notebook, I can remember to double check
  • Water Management:  My mother used to joke that the only way I’d remember to water my house plants was if I walked by the plant and it reached out a grabbed me and cried “please give me water.”  While it is true that often neglected my house plants, I’m very good at ensuring my vegetables have water.  Like Nutrients, plants have different water needs.  Be sure to read the directions on the seed package or ask at the local nursery when you buy your vegetable plants. I use a rain barrel to capture water for my garden.  It’s right there and easy to access.
  • Weed Control:  Raise your hand if you like weeding!  Me, not so much.  But I find if I spend a little time in the morning and in the evening, I can pretty much keep them under control.  If needed, mulch or black plastic works well to keep weeds at bay.  
  • Pest Management:  Nobody wants bugs eating their vegetables.  I’m not a big fan of using “products” too keep them away.  There are organic products that can help and I have been known to simply examine plants and pick the little buggers off.  For me, insects have not been an issue.  It’s the larger “pest” that I like to call wildlife that I must protect my garden from.  You know...deer, raccoons, skunks, mice, rabbits, and yes, even bears.  While I love the look of a cute little fence around the garden, in the North, we use 6 foot minimum and sometimes include a hot wire at the top.  Bigger pest, mean bigger fences.  OR you could simply plant 4 times as much as you need and share with Bambi and his friends.  Your choice!
  • Harvest:  All of the hard work you’ve done leads to the best part of gardening; the Harvest!  Check your garden daily and harvest what is ready.  We enjoy fresh vegetables all season long.  If you have an over abundance, can, freeze, or share with your friends.  


What tips do you have to share?  I’d love to hear from you!

Enjoy your Northern Minnesota Garden!  I know I do. Oh and by the way, the lovely picture on the cover of this blog is not my garden.  It is my dream garden and one day I hope to be there! 


I love to read.  It is one of the simply pleasures of life for me.  While I enjoy reading on my Kindle, sometimes I just want to hold a real book in my hands.  The library in Grand Rapids is very nice but honestly I just don’t get the chance to swing by there much.  If you live in a rural environment, like our Edge of the Wilderness Communities, you can get to the library without leaving your home!  The Arrowhead Library offers a great program called “Mail-A-Book”.  You can find the book you’d like to read on their website and then simply place your order (you’ll need a library card first).  Your book will arrive a few days later with a pre-paid postage return label.  Just enjoy your book and when you’re done, pop it back in the fabric envelope, attach the return label and put it in the mail.  How simply is that?  

I just received my first “Mail-A-Book” book.  I’m reading a book by William Kent Krueger.  He writes some great crime mysteries that are set in Northern Minnesota.  It’s fun to read something where you can identify places in the book.  

If you want more information on the “Mail-A-Book program, you can visit the Arrowhead Library’s page here.  

Successfully Marketing Your Property

In today’s market, simply placing a sign in your yard and listing it on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) just won’t cut it. To successfully market a property, your Realtor has to standout from the crowd with a solid marketing plan for you. This means that your Realtor must understand market conditions, know where buyers are looking for properties and then focus their marketing plans on those areas.

According to the most recent National Association of Realtors (NAR) Survey of Buyers, 51% of buyers find their properties on the internet and 34% of buyers find their property through a Realtor. If your agent wants to list your property in the newspaper, turn and run. Less then 1% of home buyers actually look in the newspaper for their new home. Why would your Realtor spend time and money on newspaper advertising if no one is looking?

If you choose to work with me, I do my best to market your property using all of the technology available. I’m very active on Social Media including Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, and do a monthly newsletter to advertise properties to our readers. I use SEO techniques (Search Engine Optimization) when describing your property so that it has a better chance of being found by potential buyers on the internet.

I’m a licensed Drone pilot and we have a professional photographer on staff that is also a licensed Drone pilot. Videos, aerial photos, and custom home videos are what we do. In addition, the use of creative, customer flyers and mailers helps me get the information on your property to qualified buyers.

Edge of the Wilderness Lakes & Homes Realty’s signs are well known in the market place. They are bright, easy to read, and represent our love of where we live. Placing an Edge of the Wilderness Lakes & Home Realty sign in your yard means being represented by the best!

Contact me today to discuss selling your property.

Love Where You Live

My husband, Ken, and I moved to Bigfork about 2 years ago after living in Tennessee for 15+ years. You might still hear the occasional "Ya'll" or I might call you "Honey" or "Sweetie". I mean no offense; there is still a bit of a Southern Belle lingering inside of me. Ken and I farmed in Tennessee and raised Angus Cattle, milked Nubian Dairy Goats, had a few horses, and raised chickens & Turkeys. It was a fun and hard work lifestyle. It was also very HOT and Humid. We were ready for a change.

People usually ask how we ended up in Northern Minnesota. Ken was doing a commercial construction project at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Faribault, MN. I took a break from the farm and came to visit. I was immediately struck by the scenery, the weather, and the people. We had the chance to explore the state and decided it was the right move for us. When we started looking at homes, we fell in love with Northern Itasca County. Every home I found online was in the Bigfork, Marcell, or Effie area. We are outdoorsy people and love to fish, hunt, hike, boat, kayak, and in general, spend our time outside as much as possible so the Edge of the Wilderness Communities is prefect for our lifestyle.

Our farm sold quickly and we packed our bags and headed North. We had a great Realtor who I now have the pleasure of working with. She helped us find a great home on a smaller, private lake and we were able to close quickly and move in. I think the first summer I was on Connor’s lake everyday unless it was pouring down rain. We hike at Scenic State Park regularly, visit the "Lost 40", and are slowly working our way through fishing on all of the 1,000’s of lakes in Itasca County.

I have started to pick up the "You-Betcha's", understand that Soda is called Pop, and that folks in Minnesota really are "Minnesota Nice". One of our neighbors told me one day that we were very lucky because we live where other people vacation. You know, he was right. We Love Where We Live.

How to be your own Handy-Woman

Ladies, did you know that you can learn to be your own handy-woman without having to wait around for a man to help you. There are simple projects you can do by simply having the proper tools, some patience, and a little “Can-Do” attitude.

Every lady should have a toolbox with basic house-hold tools. We’ll stick to non-powered tools to get started. You can always add some power tools to your line-up as your confidence and skills grow. Here’s a list to get your Handy-Woman Toolbox started:

  • Hammer: hammers come in a variety of weights so pick one that you are comfortable holding and feels good in your hands
  • Screwdrivers: You might not be familiar with the proper names of the different screwdrivers, but you’ll want a set that has a flathead and a Phillips head. The flathead screwdrivers are simple flat at the tip. A Phillips head looks more like a small star. Most home projects can be completed with either a flat or Phillips head screwdriver.
  • Crowbar: Sometimes these are called a Cat’s Paw or Pry Bar. A small one is fine and will be helpful in many projects.
  • Saws: a small wood saw and a hacksaw (for cutting metal). Like the hammer, you want something that you are comfortable handling.
  • Toolbox: A nice box for storing all of your items. You can pick these up in any hardware, lumber, or home improvement store.

(Tomboy Tools is a great company that has a wonderful line-up of tools designed for women by women. You can visit their site here: https://shop.tomboytools.com/ I like that their tools come in pink which means your spouse or sons will never steal them)

To get started with your Handy-Woman work, pick small projects to start with. Things that might seem overwhelming like fixing a leaky faucet or patching a hole in drywall are all doable. You can fix a squeaky or sticky door, repair tile, and even build a flower bed with your hand tools. Don’t be afraid to try. YouTube is loaded with How To Videos and there are other sites such as www.seejanedrill.com and www.houselogic.com. I think you’ll find that learning to do things around your home is not only fun but also empowering.

3 Things to Consider Before Trying to Sell Your Own Home

While trying to sell your home yourself can sound like a great idea, it might not be as easy as it sounds. Navigating the paperwork, negotiating with buyers, and even being available for showings cuts into your free time. You won’t have to pay a commission of course, but did you know that a professional Realtor can actually save you both time and money? Before you jump into selling “For Sale By Owner” (FSBO) consider these 3 things:

  1. Selling Price: Typically, FSBO’s sell at a lower price then properties represented by a Realtor. In 2015, the average Realtor listed home sold for 23% more than a home listed for sale by owner. A Realtor understands the market and knows what homes are selling for. They are also there to negotiate the best offer, with the right terms for you.
  2. Time on Market: According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) time on the market is decreased when using a Realtor. NAR’s research shows that a home sold through a Realtor sells 22% faster than a For Sale By Owner property! If you need to sell quickly, a Realtor can get it done. Realtors have access to not only the MLS but also to clients that are looking for a home like yours.
  3. Stress on the Seller: 70% of FSBO’ers say they’ve had major difficulties when trying to sell their property. Whether it is getting the listing price right, navigating the legal paperwork involved, or simply negotiating with potential buyers, selling on your own can be very stressful. A Realtor has the knowledge and resources to overcome these obstacles and their job is to get you the most for your property in the least amount of time. A Realtor represents your interest.

Before putting up your For Sale By Owner sign, talk to a Realtor like Karen Wortman and find out what she can do for you.

12 Steps for Buying Your First Home

Buying your first home can be both exciting & overwhelming at the same time. Here are 12 simple steps to help guide you through from start to finish:

  1. Save: Have some money saved for a down-payment, closing cost, and other expenses.
  2. Improve Your Credit Score: Don’t make any major purchases before purchasing your new home. Stay current on your bills & rent.
  3. Calculate: Do you know what you can afford? There are many calculators available online to help you figure what price point to look for.
  4. Get Pre-Approved: Your mortgage lender can offer great advice on what programs are available to meet your needs. Shop for the best deal and work with someone that you trust. With a Pre-Approval letter, you know in advance how much you can borrow towards your dream home.
  5. Decide what You want in a Home: Make a list of the “must have’s” and the “would be nice to have’s” for your new home. How many bedrooms do you need? How many bathrooms? Do you want a city property or do you prefer country-living?
  6. Choose Your Realtor: A realtor can make the home-buying process less stressful. They are there to help with the paperwork, negotiating, and getting the deal done.
  7. Tour Homes: Your Realtor can set up showings of homes that meet your criteria and budget. When you visit the homes, take notes, take pictures, and let your Realtor know what you like and don’t like about a property. This helps to narrow your search.
  8. Narrow Your Search: Once you’ve found a home that you love, do a little secondary research. Test your commute. Drive around the neighborhood. And, have your Realtor schedule a second showing.
  9. Make an Offer: Your Realtor can help you with your offer and recommend contingencies such as home inspection and financing. Your Realtor can also help with negotiating counter offers.
  10. Home Inspection: Once your offer is accepted, its time to schedule a home inspection. A home inspector will inspect the property and look for anything that might be a problem. A home inspection is always recommended when purchasing a new home.
  11. Final Walk Through: Prior to closing, you’ll want to schedule a final walk through of your new home with your Realtor. This is your chance to make sure that the seller has done everything they said they would and to ensure any repairs found during the home inspection have been repaired.
  12. Closing & Moving In: At closing, you and the seller will sign the necessary paperwork to transfer ownership. You’ll have closing cost to pay and once all of the formalities are done, you will get the keys to your new place.

Home-buying can be stressful. Finding the right Realtor makes the process much easier. Let’s get you on the way to home ownership! If you're ready to buy your first home you can contact Karen Wortman.

Northern Minnesota Information Resource

Here’s a list of resources that I’ve compiled to give you some more information about Northern Minnesota.  I’ve found these sites very beneficial to both buyers and sellers plus some of the sites are simply fun to visit. 

  1. DNR Eagle Cam:  When we moved to Northern Minnesota, I was struck by all of the wildlife that I saw.  I especially love seeing the Bald Eagles.  This fun site from the DNR shows a real-time webcam of a Bald Eagle Nest.  Amazing to watch especially in the spring when the little ones make their appearance.   https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/features/webcams/eaglecam/index.html
  2. DNR Lake Finder: My goal since I moved here is to fish as many of the 1,000’s of lakes we have in Itasca County.  As most fishermen/women know, to have success on a new lake, you need to have some information about the lake.  The DNR Lake Finder gives a wealth of information to anglers.  https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/features/webcams/eaglecam/index.html
  3. Fall Color Tour: Fall is a magical time in Northern Itasca County.  I can’t even begin to describe the vivid colors of the fall leaves.  It’s my favorite time to go hiking or put my kayak in a remote lake.  This DNR website give you all of the information you need to plan your trip when the colors are at their peak.  https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/fall_colors/index.html
  4. Chippewa National Forest: The Chippewa National Forest is the 1st National Forest established East of the Mississippi River in 1908 and is home to more lakes and wetlands then any other National Forest.  It is breath-taking!  Trails, camping, fishing, hiking; you name it!  https://www.fs.usda.gov/chippewa
  5. Scenic State Park: I spend a lot of my limited free time at Scenic State Park.  Winnie, my dog, and I love to hike the many trails.  Scenic State Park is home to Coon & Sandwick lakes for fishing.  You can camp, hike, and more.  If you love to hike, try the trail to Chase Point.  It’s amazing.  https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/park.html?id=spk00262#homepage
  6. Plant Hardiness Map: Moving from Tennessee to Minnesota was a big adjustment to my gardening.  Luckily I had great neighbors that told me “never put a plant in the ground until June 1st.”  In TN, I was often planting cooler weather veggies in February!  This Plant Hardiness Map is very helpful in learning about your planting zone.  http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/
  7. Edge of the Wilderness Discovery Center: If you want to learn more about the Edge of the Wilderness, stop by the Discovery Center in Marcell.  They are very friendly and have lots of information to share.  In addition, there is a gift shop, nature programs, and more.  https://www.facebook.com/Edge-of-the-Wilderness-Discovery-Center-430246440342339/
  8. Becoming an Outdoor Woman: What a fabulous program this is ladies!  Becoming an Outdoor Woman (BOW) is a program just for women.  Learn all kinds of outdoor skills at their many workshops throughout the state.  I attended one of their weekend get-away events and learned about Snowshoeing, Cross Country Skiing, and Dark House Fishing.  Plus you get to meet women from all over.  They also offer programming for Becoming an Outdoor Family to get the kids involved.  I highly recommend it!  https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/education/bow/index.html
  9. Northern Itasca Joint Powers Board: The principle mission of the Northern Itasca Joint Powers Board is to "retain the natural beauty of the area while progressing to provide our diverse population with opportunity, economic viability and a quality of life that will carry on into future generations".  This site provides links to all of the Edge of the Wilderness Communities.  Definitely worth a visit.  http://www.edgeofthewilderness.org/
  10. Itasca County Soil & Conservation District: If you have land in Itasca County or are considering a purchase, this site is valuable. The Itasca County Soil & Conservation District provides programs in Wetlands, Forestry, Shore land, and more.  They have cost share programs and do an annual plant sale where you can purchase native trees, plants, flowers, and grasses.  https://www.itascaswcd.org/ 

Looking to purchase or sell a home in the area? contact Karen Wortman today.