Thursday, January 25, 2007

Fools Rush In

I've got a friend who's in love with a wonderful guy. The interview process for that position is really quite simple. You take one look at the fellow and if you like what you see, he's got the job. Why bother checking references when you know in your heart he's the one? (I speak from personal experience.)

So, she's in love and you'd think she'd be thrilled, but she's not. Instead, she's dedicating most of her energy to pushing this thing forward on a ridiculously fast timetable. So far, he's compliant, though that won't last long and these are the times when it's just no fun being on the outside looking in.

It reminds me of my neighbor and his thousand dollar trees. After he built his house, the lawn team planted mature 40-foot trees so it would look like he's lived there forever. The trees died and so did his passion to fit in, because I noticed the place is up for sale.

Like it or not, life plugs along at a slow and steady pace. It takes 10 years to grow a garden. 20 years to grow a child. 40 years to grow a tree that will be around long after you're gone.

Sure, you can muscle that timetable. The flowers will bloom and then they'll fizzle. Some kids spend a lifetime searching for a happy childhood. A good, strong wind takes down a weak tree easy enough.

And, that's why I wish more people would appreciate the lost art of planting seeds. It's the process, not the end result, that makes life worth living.

Come summer, my little seedlings will get bigger and stronger every day. Then I'll spot a bud. The next day a flower. And, I will have savored every moment of nurturing them along the way.

Because in the end, isn't this what life is really all about? The ups and downs we experience, while quietly cultivating a beautiful thing?

  • Start perennial seedlings indoors 12-14 weeks before transplanting.
  • 16 oz. clear plastic drinking cups make ideal planters, allowing healthy root growth.
  • Avoid anything with the word 'Jiffy' on it. Compressed peat pellets aren't as great as you'd think. For one, they're expensive. Plus the outer mesh bag doesn't decompose in the soil and seedlings quickly become root bound.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Bigger They Are, Harder They Fall

If a tree falls in the woods and no one's around, does it make a noise?

Darned if I know. But, I can tell you when a tree falls in the house it makes a horrible crash. Kind of like someone breaking in... Which is why I cowered under the bed covers for a good half hour, hoping my dog would bite the burglar and I could live to garden another day.

Uncle Henry is an African Milk Tree, one of the largest, most easy growing plants you can have indoors. In a sunny window, with weekly watering, Milk Trees will grow to enormous heights. Henry was about 14 feet tall and very top heavy so it's no surprise he decided to take a dive.

All is not lost. Milk Trees are incredibly easy to propagate. Make a clean cut on his tall branches. Place these cuttings directly into the soil and fertilize regularly for the first month. (Diluted 10-10-10 is best.)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

As I Lay Dying...

Two things have always perplexed me about exercise classes:
1) Why we even bother.
2) Why we suffer in silence.

I started my new workout routine last week and I seem to be the only one crying out from the back of the room: Hellooo, I'm dyin' here!!!

Your poor house plants are probably saying the same thing. Try to show more compassion than the perky little brat teaching my body sculpt class.

January is torture time for house plants. Low light conditions and dry furnace air creates a miserable environment. Plus, they're probably freezing their little tails off if they're sitting on a cold windowsill when you turn the heat down at night.

Unhappy House Plant Warning Signs:
  • Yellow leaves - Too much light, fertilizer or water.
  • Yellow spots - Dripping water onto the leaves. (Water from below.)
  • Brown leaves - Not enough water.
  • Dry leaves - Lack of humidity.
  • All of the above - R.I.P.
In high plains deserts, like the mountains of the Southwest, house plants love extra humidity. Try a double saucer. Set plants above the water line so moisture can evaporate upward, toward the leaves.

  • The darker green the leaf, the less light a plant generally needs.
  • Most indoor flowering plants do better in cooler temperatures.
* As I Lay Dying is a brilliant novel of human suffering, written by William Faulkner.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

How Does Your Garden Grow?

IF there is an upside to global warming (and there is not) it would have to be the great news that northern gardeners who live in places like Minnesota (which felt a lot like Siberia, when I lived there) can now plant the kind of flowers they only dreamed of.

Politics... politics... politics... Perhaps that's why the USDA hasn't found the time (in 16 years!) to publish a new growing zone map.

But, the Arbor Day Organization has. Chilly Minnesota has warmed up from zone 3 to zone 4. Utah mountains have gone from zone 5 to zone 6. Click on the box below to see if your planting zone has changed. And, while you're at it, plant more trees. That might be the only thing that can save us from the next Dust Bowl.

10 FREE FLOWERING TREES are waiting for you at Arbor Day.

* This one's for you, Arizona! The net cooling effect of one healthy tree is equal to 10 room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Screamin' Deals on Cheery Bulbs

Hazel picks through sale tables to rescue suffering plants and give them a good home. I'm a sucker for that kind of stuff, too. Mostly because I love a screaming deal.

Amaryllis bulbs, after the holidays, are generally marked down to a dollar or two. They might look a little odd, since they're probably growing inside their boxes (they'll grow without water, soil or sunlight.) But, they're still perfectly good flowers waiting for a happy home.

Grab them off the sale table. Give them a drink. Come February, they'll reward you with gigantic, colorful blooms.

* Plant in peat moss mixture or set roots in water, securing bulb in a base of pebbles.

Monday, January 01, 2007

I Resolve...

My resolutions are simple in number and complex in meaning. I want to live different.

I want to be kinder to people and helpful to wildlife. Plant more trees. Grow more veggies. And, ignore the folks who lament growing old. Because age is a box people put you in and no good ever comes from listening to those who think you should behave this way or that.

The first thing I'm gonna do is take care of the birds. They're as confused as me when it comes to life's little problems.

Did you know they're not flying South for the winter? It's true. Winters are milder, now, so many species are staying put. And, that's where you come in. Because the winters aren't that mild. The weather is volatile and food is scarce.

Lend them a helping hand. Favorite foods for winter birds:
  • Unsalted Peanuts - Europeans have been doing this for years. Maybe that's why they have so many pretty songbirds...
  • Cracked Corn - If you're lucky, you'll recruit more than birds. Maybe even a moose!
  • Fruit - Apples, bananas, anything you're planning to toss out is a welcome treat.
  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds - Most every bird enjoys nibbling on these.
  • Thistle - a favorite for the little guys, finches, wrens, etc.
Did you know that people who donate time to helping others have lower blood pressure, live longer and live happier than those who just write a check? Volunteer. Take a risk. Learn a new trick. And, don't - whatever you do - go on a diet. Resolve to be fat and happy.

This is gonna be a good year. I can feel it in my bones.

* Suet is a favorite of the bully bird, Starling. Remove suet from your outdoor feeding area so smaller, well-mannered birds will come to call.