Although I was born and raised in North Dakota, my grandparents on my dad's side lived in New Jersey, known as the Garden State. Gardening was a big part of their lives, and Grandfather Kinzler actually died in his vegetable garden. All in all, not a bad way to go. My grandparents taught me much about gardening. Many years ago, they gave me their favorite gardening book, which is now more than 80 years old, published in 1935 by garden author Roy Biles. The book is full of yard and garden wisdom, and it's amazing how valuable the advice remains today.
FARGO — You know you're a dyed-in-the-wool gardener if, when picking cucumbers, you triple check beneath every leaf so not a single cuke is left to over ripen. And when others are helping, you double check their work because they might not be thorough. You know you've got a case of gardening fever when you stay up half the night blanching broccoli that was at the perfect stage for picking, because tomorrow might be too late.
Has your mid-summer water bill skyrocketed from keeping flowerbeds and gardens well-moistened? Gardeners easily rationalize the expense. We don't buy caviar, and we don't winter on the French Riviera, so we're actually saving money while racking up a sky-high utility bill. Besides, the growing season is short so we may as well garden with gusto. Flower gardens, pots and planters are at a summer highpoint. Follow these guidelines to keep plants colorful for the season's second half. Annuals in containers
Q: Our Autumn Blaze Maple tree has greenish-red bumps on many of its leaves. Are these insect eggs that will hatch and eat the dickens out of the leaves, or is it a disease? What treatment is recommended? — Bruce Johannes, Fargo
Many of us have heard the apple and the worm joke before, but old humor bears repeating for enjoyment by the next generation. What's worse than biting into an apple and seeing a worm? Biting into an apple and seeing half a worm. Instead of leaving apple trees to their own devices until harvest, only to find worm-damaged fruit, we can mitigate problems starting in June. If you've experienced apple trees so laden with fruit you're afraid the branches will snap, the problem can also be remedied in June. Apple maggot
Q: I have phlox plants in my back yard and every year about this time the leaves start turning yellow from the bottom up. The tops of the plants are fine and they eventually bloom. What is causing this and what can I do about it? The variety is called Miss Mary. - Walt Meidinger, Fargo.
Mother Nature has tested our patience this spring. The season started nicely until cold winds the last half of May made tomato plants shiver and suffer. Then she changed her mind and ushered in June with a week of hot wind more typical of August. And much of the region is very dry, missing out on normal spring rains. Even though nature can be quirky, what other endeavor gives fresh food, good exercise and a major sense of accomplishment? Here's a June to-do list for vegetable gardening:
Q: Our lilac is beautiful, but I fear it will eventually just have flowers at the top like some I've seen. Each year we've removed three or four of the largest branches, but haven't cut any at the top. How can we best maintain this spring focal point? - Jeanne Alm, Hendrum, Minn.
Old gardening humor describes the best way to tell whether a newly emerging spring plant is a weed or a valuable perennial. Tug on it. If it pulls out easily, it was a valuable perennial. If it remains stubbornly in place, it's a weed. As important as recognizing weeds from perennials is separating adapted trees and shrubs from non-adapted. Everyone wants their trees and shrubs to survive and flourish, especially those we've just bought and planted. Unfortunately, some plants sold in the Upper Midwest are not winter-hardy or adapted to our conditions.
Have you ever noticed that people who enjoy their yards and gardens like talking about plants nearly as much as they enjoy growing them? Striking up a conversation is easy. Just ask "Have you ever tried... (fill in the blank with the name of any plant)?" Plant-growing discussions don't always involve brand-new varieties, but maybe older types that we're trying for the first time. One of gardening's fascinations is the endless number of plant possibilities, and we're nearing the peak of the garden center shopping season. Personally, I'd like at least one of everything.