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Posts Tagged ‘Everyday life’

A few years ago I had to visit a big box store and noticed racks of plants wilting in the sun, with no hose in sight. I pointed this out to the first store employee I saw walking by and the response was “I don’t have time right now. I’ll get to it when I can.” The tag the person wore said “manager.” If watering takes such a low priority, just imagine what insect and disease protection must be like.

For the customer, repeated wilting means there is a very good chance that plants have been subjected to stresses that severely weaken them. The effects of this kind of stress, depending on the plant, may not become apparent until a few weeks later, or even until the following season.

When I was young I worked at a nursery where we grew ten thousand mums each year. The number one priority was watering. It didn’t matter what else needed to be done; you didn’t let plants wilt-ever.  Standing out in the hot sun watering ten thousand mums was unpleasant, but the plants came first and your needs second, and we all understood that.

A while ago I visited Windsock gardens in Swanzey and asked about a particular variety of impatiens. Sarah, the owner, wrote down my request and said she wouldn’t have them until next year because she grew them from seed. Rather than being disappointed, I was happy to hear it. Now this, I thought, is a real nursery.  Someone who raises thousands of plants from seed cares about their plants, and you won’t ever see them wilting.

“Caveat emptor” is Latin for “let the buyer beware,” and that’s what buyers should do when buying plants from box or grocery stores. Unless you get them right off the truck it’s a roll of the dice, and buying dozens of shrubs for a hedge, for example, could be a significant gamble.

Would you try to buy lumber or groceries at a plant nursery? If not, then why would you buy plants at a lumber yard or a grocery store? Do yourself a favor and shop at a reputable nursery, where their only concern is the plants they care for. You might pay a few cents more, but you’ll have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your plants are healthy, hardy in your area, and well cared for.

One final word: Please don’t blame store employees for their lack of knowledge. It’s up to the owner to make sure employees know how to care for plants before putting them in charge of the garden center.

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I’ve lived in the big city and I’ve lived in the country. Neither is better than the other, because there is a price to be paid no matter where you live. In the city it’s crowds and noise, and in the country it’s……well, I’ll let a friend of mine who used to live in New Hampshire tell the story of the price we sometimes pay.

My neighbors were viewing their spring gardens with pride and anticipation until a big woodchuck moved in. 

First he (she or it) nipped off the tops of a patch of new peas, contemptuously leaving bare stalks.  The owners stuffed a gas canister into the burrow, set it off, and set the hill on fire.  But the woodchuck had moved to the next yard, and then the next.  Those gardeners took verbal action. The first claimed the only way to control woodchucks is to shoot them, but it is illegal to discharge firearms in the village, so she didn’t.  The second stood on her back porch, stamped her feet, and uttered vile curses.  The woodchuck, who was eating the Shasta daisies, sneered.

The last couple discovered him in their flower beds, set a Havahart trap, and caught a half-grown female.  Unfortunately, they had a heart and could not – ahem – dispose of her, and it didn’t seem friendly to relocate her in yet another neighbor’s yard, so they let her go.  Papa (or Mama) appears to have retired.

I have told this story many times.  My city friends look blank.  My country friends laugh in recognition, but at least one can easily top it.  He sealed a burrow, set off a canister, and stood over the tunnel to monitor the results.  Under the ground, he heard serious coughing.  Satisfied, he went to bed.  In the morning, the woodchuck had dug its way out of the tunnel and disappeared.  That, my friend says, is the humane way to dispose of woodchucks.

Note to Readers: If you have a gardening anecdote or if you’d like to pass on a gardening tip or two, I’d love to have you send it to me. I’ve discovered that this blogging business is a lot of work and I could use a break! Just click on the “contact me” tab above and you can send an email or leave a reply. Many thanks to E.H.B. of Indianapolis for this one.

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Have you ever dreamed of owning your own grove of Christmas trees? Would you like to attract song birds and wildlife to your property? Do you have a view you’d like to screen or an eroding hillside you’d like to stabilize at low cost?

Well, you can do all of that and much more by ordering plants from the New Hampshire State Forestry Nursery. The New Hampshire Division of Forests and Lands operates this nursery to “provide customers with the highest quality, bare root seedlings for forestry, conservation and education purposes at attractive prices.”

And the prices certainly are attractive; Where else can you buy 2 year old, 6-12″ Rugosa Rose seedlings for $1.00 each? Bulk quantities cost even less, with 100 seedlings selling for $60.00. These roses are among the toughest known, and are excellent for hedgerows and erosion control. The very fragrant, pink or white blossoms give way to bright red rose hips which attract birds and other wildlife.

Though Rosa Rugosa is not a New Hampshire native, much of what is sold at the New Hampshire State Forestry Nursery is. Whether these plants are native or not, all are grown from seed in New Hampshire and will do well here.

They sell many varieties of conifer and hardwood trees, native and non native shrubs and grapes, and mixed variety packages, such as their songbird / wildlife package. Don’t wait too long though; Balsam Fir and Hemlock seedlings have already sold out for 2011.

There isn’t enough room here to list all of the different plants sold by the New Hampshire State Forestry Nursery, so if you’re interested in their plants you should visit their website.  Just click on “NH Forestry Dept. Nursery” under favorite links to the right.

Keene Farmers Market opens this Tuesday, May 3. Hours are Tuesdays and Saturdays 9-2 through October.

Another under used resource is the Keene Farmers Market. Located on Gilbo Ave. behind the Colonial theater, the market sells everything from fresh herbs and vegetables to local cheeses, breads and crafts. Cut flowers, bedding plants; you name it, it can be found there. The only place you’ll find fresher herbs and vegetables is in your own garden.

Please pay the market a visit and support your local farmers and crafts people.

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 I’m the first to admit that I’m always skeptical when new gardening gimmicks appear, and this upside down tomato bag thing I’ve seen on television has really brought out the skeptic in me. According to the website, this latest gimmick is better because it “saves space, eliminates weeding and bending, keeps plants away from the ground’s insects and potential diseases, and eliminates having to constantly tie your plants to stakes.” Though I haven’t spent any money on it (and won’t) I wanted to be fair, so I visited several other websites to read product reviews by people who’ve bought one.

The number one complaint about this thing is the weight. A tomato plant full of fruit is very heavy. Add water (8.35 Lbs per gallon) and it might pull down whatever you hang it from. Some people have actually gone out and bought steel tubing or 2 x 4s to support it.

But wait! There’s more! You can also buy a special stand to support your tomato bag! (But doesn’t that kind of defeat the space saving aspect?)

Others have had to tie the plant up with pantyhose to keep it from pulling itself out of the bag. My first question when I saw the thing was “How do you keep gravity from pulling the plant out of the bag?” Now I know-pantyhose! (What was that about eliminating tying plants to stakes?)

The second most common complaint has to do with watering. Many people complain that the water runs out of the hole that the tomato stem goes through and runs down over the plant, keeping it perpetually soaking wet. (What was that about disease?) Many others complained about how quickly the soil dried out, saying they’ve had to rig up drip irrigation lines to keep it moist. How does overhead drip irrigation work, I wonder?  For your next purchase, might I suggest a Sham Wow to mop all that leaking water up with?

But wait! What about those pesky insects?  The most common pest on tomato plants is whitefly. Whiteflies lay eggs on the underside of leaves and the emerging nymphs suck the life out of the plant. How do they get to the plant? They fly, hence their name.  So much for upside down-ness keeping pests away.

In my opinion, you should save your money and plant your tomatoes in the garden. For the price of two of these things you can buy enough tomato plants to feed your entire neighborhood. If you’re an apartment dweller, take a five gallon bucket, drill holes in the bottom and fill it with compost or composted manure. You’ll have plenty of tomatoes and really will save space. If you feel that you must grow your tomatoes upside down, drill one hole in the center of a five gallon bucket bottom and thread the plant through it upside down, roots first, and fill the bucket with compost. Then, rent a crane or some scaffolding to hang it from, because it might just tear the porch roof right off the house.  Or, you could just grow a dwarf cherry or grape tomato in a standard hanging planter. I’ve done this many times and they do produce tomatoes, but not as many as they would if grown in the ground.  

If anyone reading this has bought one of these and believes my criticism is too harsh, I’d love to hear from you. Meanwhile, I wish you nothing but good luck, strong rafters, and bumper crops.

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Thinking I’d finally join the rest of humanity in the 21st century, I recently got a smart phone. After fooling with it for several hours I put it down, telling myself that if nothing else, I could at least make and answer calls on it. 

Though I jokingly tell anyone who asks that I have a smart phone but am too dumb to use it, there is a nugget of truth there, because some of its functions seem very complicated. I think that’s partly because you need fingers about the size of those on a G.I. Joe doll to type or to choose what you want to do. Every time I click on something, I get exactly what I don’t want. 

But, I don’t give up easily. Deciding that it would be handy to have a compass on the phone so I could find the amount of sun exposure on any given property, I thought I’d download an app for that. Four hours later I still didn’t have a compass on the phone and was about ready to throw it out the back door. 

Luckily my son was here, so I told him of my plight. He had a compass on the damn thing in seconds! (Of course, he’s the one who built a computer NASA would envy, so why wouldn’t he know cell phones?) When I complained that I’d like a plain black background instead of the animated, frilly thing that the phone came with he put the camera lens on his palm and took a picture.  Again, in seconds I had a black background. 

I never would have guessed that I could go from feeling like a technically savvy 21st century android user to a fossilized throw back to the 20th century so quickly. 

Anyhow, last night I went in search of gardening apps, just to see what was out there. A better question would have been: What isn’t out there? I was surprised by all the gardening information that anyone can have right at their fingertips; everything from composting to insect identification to vegetable gardening, and much more. For the novice gardener, many of these applications would serve as excellent reference tools. 

This morning I found a handy looking area and volume calculator and was finally able to download it. If I ever figure out where on the phone it is, I’ll try it out. Meanwhile, I’ll just use a pencil and paper.

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