2013-03-07 / Columns

Garden Thyme

By Beth Binkowski bethsgardenthyme@yahoo.com

The perfect garden planted in my mind for the past few months is edging closer to reality (which means my perfect garden will go poof). What I need is a gardening angel. At any rate, spring is just around the corner. Come on spring!

Spring officially begins with the vernal equinox at 7:02 a.m. (EDT) on March 20, in the Northern Hemisphere. The word equinox is derived from the Latin words meaning “equal night.” Days and nights are approximately equal everywhere, and the sun rises and sets due east and west. (You know—when the sun is smack-dab in your eyes driving our compassstraight east/west North Dakota roads.) Of course, as Galileo figured out many centuries ago, the sun stays put, it doesn’t rise or set at all—the earth moves. Maybe we need a language readjustment.

For many North Dakotans, spring begins with the first sweet notes of the meadowlark. For years, I’ve kept track of their return along with the killdeer and robins. It’s usually (but not always) around mid March, which is also when I start many of my seedlings. Starting much earlier produces spindly, leggy plants for me. Peppers and petunia are started first, then on to tomatoes, cole plants and other flowers. More and more seeds are planted. More and more birds return. I’m in sync with the birds.

March is the best month for pruning trees and shrubs. Remove weak, dead or damaged branches, suckers and crossing or rubbing branches. Don’t waste your money on wound dressing products as they can trap moisture in the wound and create rot. They’ll heal better without the dressing. Sap can bleed profusely out of the pruning wounds of maples and birches. This is completely harmless.

This spring I’m going on a labeling spree, so I can easily see what varieties are the best performers (the first, biggest, healthiest, tastiest or most productive) and which ones are duds. Sometimes in my flowerbeds, I forget what I’ve planted or where. One garden catalog has some pre-printed plant markers, such as, “I Don’t Remember Planting This” and “Plantus Unknownus.”An appropriate one for me would be, “What the Bleep Is This?”

The Prairie Planters Garden Club of Emmons County will hold its next meeting on Thursday, March 14, 6:30 p.m. at the Harry L. Petrie Library. Kelcey Holm and Acacia Stuckle (from the NDSU Extension Service) will give a presentation, “From garden to table: Harvesting herbs for healthy eating.” The public is invited to come, meet our Extension Agents, and pick up some pointers on growing herbs.

An added bonus for attending the meeting is a traveling exhibit from the State Historical Society of North Dakota that will be at the library. “Seed of Victory: Home Gardening Posters from the World Wars” features 34, full-color, war garden posters, reproduced from the originals. During World War I and World War II, planting gardens was encouraged by the federal government. Gardening and canning became patriotic acts through propaganda such as posters. If you can’t make it on March 14, the exhibit will be at the library March 4 through mid April. Drop by during regular library hours to check it out.

Spring isn’t quite here yet, so that gives ample time to gnash my teeth and worry about the upcoming gardening season. Lack of snow this winter and dire predictions of drought cause me to fret and predictions of drought bring on visions of a grasshopper plague. Grasshoppers remind me of the aphid invasion I had on my seedlings last spring. The potential devastation goes on and on in my head. Perhaps my biggest worry should be—where in the world will I plant all the seeds I ordered?

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