A Minnesota growing season is akin to a sprint. There's so little time to work with that the virtue of patience is forgotten in the spring rush to get seeds and seedlings into the ground. Sometimes we jump the gun and lose much of our investment to late-season (but, we must admit, predictable) frosts and freezes. Mother Earth Gardens helps us turn our gardening efforts into something more resembling a marathon: In the dead of winter and into early spring, the store offers free classes to get growers thinking and planning, but not actually doing until the time is right. Offerings have recently included Urban Vegetable Gardening, Gardening for Wildlife, and Basic Tree Pruning. And Mother Earth won't sell you plants that have been pumped full of chemicals to get their flashy appearance or abundant yet tasteless vegetables. The staff here is aware that with just a little more effort and knowledge you can grow organically, gazing upon flowers and harvesting healthy produce while keeping your soil in good shape for next year. They carry compostable pots, sustainably produced products, and heirloom seeds. There are gardening books, both for purchase and in a small reference library, that you're not likely to find at other stores. They even have a garden-consultation service: If you don't know what to do with your yard, have an expert come by to look over your space and help you out. This friendly neighborhood shop (which is closed for most of January but otherwise open all year) makes sure its customers get the most out of our brief, precious growing season without collapsing, exhausted, at the autumn finish line.