What type of lawn care provider are you? Do you mow only when you need to find where you left the wheelbarrow? At the opposite end of the grassy spectrum, do you fret if your mowing pattern doesn't look precisely even, causing you to lay down with a cold compress until the stress passes? Or maybe like most of us, you just want your lawn green, dense and weed-free.
Were your parents or grandparents raised during the Great Depression? My mom and dad were teenagers during the extreme drought decade of the 1930s, a lesson never forgotten, and even in their 90s treated water like a precious elixir. When I was a child growing up on the banks of the Sheyenne River in Lisbon, N.D., we pumped river water on our flower and vegetable gardens. Using "city water" for outdoor watering wasn't even a concept. After all, city water cost money.
FARGO — Remember back in high school when students would whine to the teacher, "Why do we have to memorize this? We're never going to use it in real life." I've got to admit I've rarely used the quadratic formula and I've survived without factoring equations for nearly half a century since. But some memorization in high school and college actually pays off, such as learning botanical names of plants.
Have you ever struggled with a some-assembly-required item, and hours later concluded that whoever wrote the instructions obviously never actually put one together? That's the way I felt the other day when I simply wanted to add fertilizer around our arborvitae. I even decided to read the directions. The bag of 10-10-10 was headlined for trees, shrubs and flowers and said to apply 1 pound per 100 feet of row. But I don't have 100 feet of arborvitae. Just tell me how big of a scoop to sprinkle around each, as in how many cups.
I'm not one to question Mother Nature's good intentions, but have you ever wondered how she arrived at some of her rules? An uncharitable person might suggest some of her confusing laws of nature were formulated after a night on the town. Why, for example, is it best to plant tomatoes deeply, burying the stems, but if you do the same with pepper plants, tomato's close cousins, the stems rot? Mastering how deeply to plant is perhaps gardening's most basic secret of success. The following demonstrate how varied the rules of planting depth can be.
FARGO — Do you enjoy watching what's happening around town? I don't mean peering out from behind the drapes to see what quality of furniture is being delivered to the neighbors. No, I'm referring to the beautiful plantings that grace people's homes, which are a visual gift to all who drive by.
Gardeners experience a common conundrum. Each year, seed companies fill catalogs with hot new flowers and vegetables, tempting gardeners away from varieties they've come to know and love. What's a gardener to do? Do we plant our favorite old reliables or try eye-catching new varieties instead, especially if limited space doesn't allow both? New types might become our new and improved favorites, or an entire growing season could be wasted, wishing we had stuck with past preferences.
FARGO — Diamonds are high-priced and chocolates add calories. That's why flowers and Valentine's Day go together like Martha Stewart and color-coordinated garden hose. On Valentine's Day, flower shops are filled with floral arrangements elegant enough to give even Martha a run for her money. Speaking of money, there's a way to enjoy a nice floral arrangement from the local florist, even if you're on a tight budget.
FARGO — Martha Stewart's Christmas gift list once again includes items "perfect for the gardener on your holiday list." Topping the list is a pair of gold-plated earrings in the shape of large, dangling string beans for $125. I'll try not to look disappointed, but what I really want is a new pruner instead. It's fun to give Christmas gifts that you'd enjoy receiving yourself. Most gardeners would appreciate unique gifts that are sturdy and useful. In past years, my suggestions for gardeners have focused on things found locally.
FARGO — You'd think gardeners who are passionate about their lawns, flowerbeds and landscapes would be weeping hysterically at season's end. But there's an unspoken gardening truth that we quietly acknowledge. We relish the growing season with gusto, but we're secretly OK with it pausing for a while. The key word is pause, not end. We might be resting from weeding, mulching and mowing, but our minds are already planning to make next year's tomato crop the best ever, and we need the eye-popping perennial we saw on last summer's garden tour.