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It’s Spring, Already


Where does the time go? Seems like nano-seconds since I gave up on my overgrown, drought and heat-ravaged mess of a garden in the fall, planted a white flag in the shriveled remains of a tomato plant in a dried up container and screamed to anyone who would listen (mostly squirrels and birds), “It’s yours! You own it! Do your worst. Dig up some bulbs. Go ahead, leave some foxhole-sized divots in the lawn. Knock yourselves out! Go on, sparrows, poop all over everything. Here, I’m putting out an extra lawn chair for just that purpose! Should I leave my bicycle out here, too? You want that, too? Huh? I don’t care! I quit. I resign. I abdicate. I bifurcate. I conjugate! I’ll be back in the spring. Or summer. Or in 2017. Maybe. Don’t hold your breath because… because… there’s nothing weirder than a blue squirrel.”

And with that, I walked into the house and rather animatedly rearranged all of my ties by date of purchase.
Flash forward five months or so.

Here we are. Spring. Yup. Spring.

Again.

Uh-yup.

And you know what? Gosh darn it, this time I am renewed. I am imbued. I am askewed, as I face the daunting, oppressive, suffocating, stifling and positively stultifying challenges of the coming gardening season. But enough with the cheerleading.

I have a goal this year, which, frankly, is to get all gardeners to think like me. Yes: Just. Like. Me. Imagine how I could transform horticulture. For instance, compare my philosophies to the “positive” garden gurus (and I use the word “positive” in quotes… wait… you can see the quotations… uh, never mind).

Positive Garden Guru Rule #1: Always try something new.
Mike Nowak Garden Rule #1: Try something really new.

For instance, hire your auto mechanic to design your garden. Now, c’mon, don’t get all skeptical on me. Do you really know what is in the heart and soul of your auto mechanic? I think not. There might be a Jens Jensen hiding under the hood, just waiting to be set free. Come to think of it, I believe my old lawn mower was Jens Jensen powered. Don’t quote me on that.

Positive Garden Guru Rule #2: Shed your pride and continually ask questions.
Mike Nowak Garden Rule #2: Yes, always ask questions, but make sure that you ask the right questions:

  • Why am I doing this?
  • Am I going to hurt myself?
  • Who can I find to dig this hole for me?
  • Do I need a break yet?
  • Who can I find to shlep this bag of mulch for me?
  • Is my neighbor watching me?
  • Why? (Or why not?)
  • Where’s the merlot?
  • Why can’t I find the merlot?
  • Did I forget to buy the merlot?

You can see why you need to ask questions.

Positive Garden Guru Rule #3: Do not blame yourself if things go awry.
Mike Nowak Garden Rule #3: Absolutely Do not blame yourself. Instead, blame your spouse, your kids, your neighbors, your BFF, your boss, the mayor, the governor and, ultimately, the President. Of the United States, of course. All of them are more responsible for your failures than you are. Trust me — you need this release valve.

If blaming people doesn’t work, blame…

  • the weather
  • the box store where you bought your plants
  • that same box store, even if you bought the plants at your neighborhood independent garden center
  • did I mention the weather?
  • squirrels
  • the independent garden center, especially if you bought your plants at a box store
  • the weather was really rotten this year–did that have something to do with it?

Got it? Are we ready to go?

All right! Let’s celebrate!

Where’s the merlot? Why can’t I find the merlot?

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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?

Would it help to apply a starter fertilizer on a poor green lawn in December? Will it give it a head start for spring? It hasn’t been reseeded.

I’d like to plant a white bark birch in front of my home in my sunny front yard. What can you tell me about Betula utilis var. Jacquemontii?

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