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Fake Gardening


I’ve been trying to characterize exactly what happens in my yard as the days grow shorter and the nights grow colder. Many garden writers wax poetic about “winding down” and “wrapping up” the season. How lovely for them. The verbs that come to mind for me as I get to the finish line are “careen,” “stumble,” “bumble,” “blunder,” “wobble,” “list,” “tilt,” “lurch,” “crash-land,” not to mention the ever-popular nouns “pratfall,” “belly flop,” “nosedive,” “calamity,” “fiasco,” and “debacle.”

My shrink wants me to stop logging onto the thesaurus website. I, on the other hand, am determined to face my horticultural — and lexicological — demons.

So as I slink towards another winter of my discontent, I’m beginning to wonder if I am simply a casualty of the age and culture in which I live. After all, we have fake news, fake presidents, fake facts, fake identities, fake meat, fake money, fake memories and fake fingernails.

What if I’m a fake gardener? It would certainly answer a lot of questions. For one thing, it might account for the fake dirt under my fake fingernails.

For instance, I don’t wear a floppy hat in the garden. Aren’t all gardeners supposed to wear floppy hats that make them look adorable? And I refuse to go near clogs. I have an unnatural fear of toe splinters and of folk dancing. (By the way, did you know that clogging is the official state dance in both Kentucky and North Carolina? Or is that a fake fact? You’ll have to look it up in your fake Important State Lists.) Regarding garden attire, I suspect that I’m somewhere on the fringes of the bell curve if only because I often put on a suit and tie before grabbing a shovel and a bag of compost.

But it’s not just clothing that makes the gardener, as the saying goes. It’s the accessories! In the case of gardeners, that means tools. I know, some of you thought I was talking about garden gloves. My rule of thumb about garden gloves goes something like this: “If you’re spending more than $1.99, you’re paying too much because you’re going to lose one in the yard waste bag anyway. And if the glove has been stitched to include an actual thumb hole, yeah, you’re paying too much.

But back to tools. Alas, this is where I fear I once again fail the fakeness test. I don’t think I have the proper respect for “the right tool for the right job.” (That sound you hear is my dad turning over in his grave. Of course, that was more about cars and getting an oil change in a timely fashion and trying harder not to run out of gas on the freeway and proper installation of a lug nut and such, but a tool is a tool is a tool.)

I can’t remember the last time I actually purchased a trowel. Oh, I have trowels — many of them, in fact. When you’re “The Garden Guy” on radio, trowels have a way of showing up in your goodie bag. Where they are at any given time is a bit of a mystery, but I know they’re on my property…somewhere…maybe. At least they were at the end of last November. So, if I need to dig a hole, I might use a trowel, or a garden shovel, or a snow shovel, or an old piece of rebar, or my shoe (gee, a clog might come in handy), or just skip it altogether and have a glass of wine.

When it comes to pruners, I’m a heretic because I don’t have the top of the line model (and everybody knows exactly which brand I’m talking about, so there’s no need to give them free publicity here.) I figure that, sooner or later, I’m going to lose them in the yard waste bag (see cheap gloves, above), so I might as well get something a little less expensive.

Speaking of lack of respect for tools, I once — true story — backed a truck over a chipper-shredder. It wasn’t mine. Well, the truck was, but not the chipper-shredder.

And let’s not even get started on chain saws. I already have nightmares about snipping off my digits in my cheap gloves with my cheap pruners, let alone trying to trying cut a tree using what feels like a Tyrannosaurus rex head with handles.

Hmm. I think it’s time to visit my fake thesaurus online, set up another fake session with my fake shrink, and have another fake glass of cabernet.

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questions

I have two 20-year-old pine trees whose needles are turning brown on the west side of the plants. On the east side I have a compost pile.

I live in the St. Charles region and my soil is mostly clay. What is causing the browning? Should I get rid of the compost? How do I correct the damage?

I have a dampish area with poor grass and moss that I would like to change to ground cover, but if I have only one plant, won’t it be boring? Can I get rid of the grass in winter or early spring?

After a summer outside, my clivia has returned indoors. Last year it had only one puny flower. What treatment should I give it over winter to bring it into bloom?

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