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From the Editor


“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning,” wrote the author of Psalms 30. Something to keep in mind as we slog through winter every year.

Now it’s March, and our time of weeping is approaching its end. Oh, we may still get a blizzard, or even two, but rest assured, we’ve survived the worst of it. March blizzards melt quickly.

One of the great benefits of gardening is that it gives us so many moments of joy. We could also call them God’s-in-his-heaven-all’s-right-with-the-world moments.

They take many forms – the much-anticipated opening of a new rose (or a beloved old rose), the first ripe tomato, the scent of a mock orange, the sight of robins plucking berries from a crabapple.

For me, one moment above all others elicits that life-is-good feeling: the germination of the first tomato seed on my radiator. Once I see the little green curve of a cotyledon pushing its nose through the potting mix, I know that the gardening year is again off and running, and all is well. Mid-March is an ideal time to start tomato, pepper and eggplant seeds indoors.

Soon, usually by the last week of March, the crocus will be in full bloom. And some lucky folks will have woodland wildflowers coming up. Read more about them in this issue’s cover story.

The wild world of bees, butterflies and birds appears in several other stories this issue as well. Patti Peltier visits a designer from Chalet who started an apiary at the nursery’s Salem, Wisc. farm a couple years ago. With declining numbers of honeybees throughout the country, food production of many crops is increasingly at risk. Apple trees, for example, are pollinated by honeybees (page 36).

The population of monarch butterflies is also seriously declining, and it behooves each of us to avoid pesticides and grow plants that will provide monarchs with food. Kay MacNeil writes an impassioned plea for us to support a new project of the Garden Clubs of Illinois (page 22). And if you would like to feed birds in your backyard, Jeff Rugg gives instructions for easy-to-build bird houses. (page 20). A very bee-bird-butterfly friendly place is the Lurie Garden, a 5-acre expanse in downtown Chicago. A great place to visit, but perhaps you’ve wondered how you can adapt what you see there to your own more modest space. Susan Crawford passes on tips from the professionals who tend the garden every day (page 16).

Also modest is the cottage in a small Wisconsin town where Patti Peltier and her husband recently planted a brand new garden following the sometimes outrageous-sounding precepts of Roy Diblik. If you’re thinking of starting over, and even if you’re not, this will make a fascinating read (page 48).

Lots to think about as the season gets underway, and joy is on the horizon. Watch for it.

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questions

I’d like to know the secret to growing a decent-sized pumpkin for jack-o-lanterns for the grandkids and for decorating. My experience in recent years is that they get about as big as a basketball and then begin to rot. What am I doing wrong?

I applied commercial compost and hardwood mulch to an area where I am establishing a small garden. I did a few soil tests on the area and the results indicated the nitrogen was depleted. I intend to spread a bag of dried blood to rectify this problem When is the best time to apply the dried blood?

I keep seeing photos of interesting plants I’d like to grow, but they’re labeled zone 6 and I’m in zone 5. What can I do to successfully overwinter these marginal plants? I’d like to try them, but I don’t want to waste my money.

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