Gardening Resolutions

A former boss, one of my favorites, announced in late December of 2002 that he planned to be a better person in 2003. A bit vague as far as goals go, but similar to mine for 2015. My resolution is to be a better gardener.

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Does the goal stump me? Well, sort of. Coming up with how to operationalize “better gardener” – making the steps concrete and achievable – means, first and foremost, admitting my gardening faults.

I confess it. My besetting sin as a gardener is haphazardness. My intentions are good. My follow-through, not so much. Thankfully, the master gardener classes this year taught me much of what I should be doing. Now I have to up my game.

To become a better gardener in 2015, here are my five resolutions:

Resolution #1: Read the how-to instructions in the seed catalogs and make choices based on two criteria: First, will I eat that vegetable? Second, will I follow the planting directions?

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Resolution #2: Know where my seeds come from. My miserable crop of virus-infected beans taught me that!

Resolution #3: Draw a garden plan that includes rotating crops, which means actually reading the how-to instructions in the seed catalogs and figuring out when to plant which veggie. Sort of a #1 redux, true. But I need lots of repetition!

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Resolution #4: Keep the how-to instructions and the plan where I can find them.

Resolution #5: When spring comes, follow the plan!

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Now the only thing left to decide is whether to try growing from seed again.

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O Christmas Tree…

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Growing up on the east coast, I expect my trees – both deciduous and evergreen – to thrive with little, or better yet, no help from me. My mother planted pine and cedar trees when she moved into her home in Cedar Grove. When she left it some twenty years later, these evergreens towered over the house.

But trees don’t grow like that in Kansas. Last fall, as I started my adventures in gardening, I found a stick of eastern red cedar growing near some lumber we had piled in the way back acre.

I’m not fond of red cedars. They seem like scrub trees to me. with a habit of growing crooked thanks to the Kansas wind. But when something volunteers, I figure I have to accept it.

The eastern red cedar is native to the Midwest. Odd name for it since the tree isn’t a cedar but a juniper – Juniperus virginiana. I’ve since learned that I could plant red cedar cultivars that the Kansas Forest Service label as ‘superior’ including Canaertii, Taylor, and Burkii. Maybe I’ll try one of the cultivars next spring.

Meanwhile, I’ve been watching my little stick, which this summer grew rapidly. It seems a bit desiccated and brown right at the moment. Strange, since this has been a summer of rain. But when I scratch off a bit of bark, the inside is green.

Will it grow? I’m counting it as my outdoor Christmas tree this year and so hope it will green up when spring comes.

This is an addendum from my friend, long-time gardening mentor, and Extension Master Gardener, Lenora Larson: Juniperus virginiana is not a scrub tree once it is full grown. Mine planted themselves about 30 years ago and by year 15 were quite lovely. Now, full-grown they are magnificent. Especially since Tucker (Lenora’s late husband) knew not to trim them. They go dormant in winter and the needles are a bronzish color. Fear not, yours will green up in spring and about year ten you will know whether it is a girl (berries) or a boy (clouds of pollen). I also have a female cultivar of Juniperus virginiana ‘Keteleeri’, which looks very differently with huge blue berries and very thin “vertical element” growth habit. Here’s the photo I took last Thursday.

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And I have to admit, they are lovely. O Christmas Tree…

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Just When I Thought the 2014 Planting Season was Finished…

The National Arbor Day Foundation sent ten trees as a result of a donation I made in July. Their ‘song bird’ collection includes two viburnum, a bur oak, a Colorado blue spruce, a gray dogwood, a red oak, a river birch, a crabapple, a tulip tree, a Washington Hawthorn and two purple lilacs. The bare root ‘sticks’ arrived in a freezing mist and drizzle. Thank you NADF!

According to the K-State University Extension, “The best time to plant is before trees break dormancy in spring or as leaves begin to change color in fall. This is when maximum root growth occurs …” So, not mid-December?

I trenched the trees into one of my raised vegetable garden beds and mulched with double chopped hardwood. It’s possible a couple of these sticks will survive through the winter for planting next spring.

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So to the NADF folks in Nebraska City, which is not that far away from here, I would very much like my fall trees in October. Or better yet, please don’t send me any more ‘trees.’ I will still support you.