FARGO -- There's a Christmas tree battle raging, and we're all in the thick of it. No, it’s not the neighborhood couple who required therapy after putting up their Scotch pine. Nor does it involve tempers flaring while locating the needle-in-a-haystack loose bulb that made the whole string of lights go out.
FARGO — The autumn of 2018 will go down in history as one of the more difficult for end-of-season yard and garden work. Our own garden has been too wet to dig potatoes from the gooey clay. Instead, I’m waiting for them to float to the surface. I wonder if Martha Stewart has a recipe for herbed potatoes a la mud.
“Close your books and take out a sheet of paper.” I haven’t heard the words for decades, but I remember vividly how the teacher’s chilling words struck fear into the hearts of us poor, unsuspecting (and probably unprepared) students when a surprise quiz was announced. It’s easier to laugh about it when you’re no longer a student.
FARGO — Did you notice the heavy crop of seeds on the region's trees this summer and fall? Elm seeds fell by the millions this summer at our home in Fargo. People around the region shared photographs of buckets filled with acorns and walnuts as trees produced bumper crops of seeds and nuts. Folklore says when trees produce an overabundance of seed, it forecasts a cold, snowy winter. Is this true, or is it an old wives' tale?
A headline contest would have been fun this week. Readers could submit titles like "Take it or leaf it," "Leaf well enough alone," "Leaf no trace" or "Don't leaf me this way." What kind of leaf-raker are you? Do you fastidiously sweep every leaf from the lawn as it falls, or do you let them accumulate until a stiff wind blows your leaves in the direction of a neighbor who enjoys yardwork? Raking autumn leaves is a Norman Rockwell-like tradition. Or alternatively, letting the lawnmower suck up leaves into the bagging attachment for removal.
What's a good gardening topic for October? Harvesting pumpkins? Fall foliage color? Cutting back frost-killed peony tops? How about blooming roses? A discussion of roses seems out of place when our seasonal theme should be more Halloween-like, but October is the perfect time to talk roses. June might be National Rose Month, but roses often get lost in the June gardening shuffle. Roses still blooming in October cause us to notice, having survived light frosts while other flowers have shrunk away.
What's your reaction to fall's first frost? Do the neighbors question whether all the white sheets in your yard are Halloween decorations or just you covering your tomatoes and geraniums again? Do you struggle to squeeze into your car because any extra space in the garage is filled with trays of yet-to-ripen tomatoes and you've moved all the still-beautiful pots and planters into the garage on frosty nights, because you might want to winter some indoors?
What's the first thought that comes to mind if someone mentions cutting back? Fewer trips through the buffet line? Less snacking between meals? Gardening has a dialect all its own with words like pinching, deadheading, slip, crown and cutting back. So, when a questioner asked about cutting back, I knew they weren't reducing their caffeine consumption.
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.