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Who’s A Good Little Garden?


I am a snow thief. There, I said it. I have been known to pilfer snow from my neighbors’ sidewalks. I know that many of you fight the dark urge, upon finishing your own walks, to move on to your neighbors’ slabs of concrete and shovel those, too. Let’s face it, we all covet our neighbor’s snow.

Why? Don’t make me state the painfully obvious! Too late. Because it makes excellent mulch for our winter garden beds, that’s why! (Ouch, that was painful.) I can admit it now because … well, because the evidence has melted and the local gendarmes will not be taking snow samples and storing them in a freezer until they can be examined as the basis of an upcoming episode of CSI: Oslo.

It’s the same reason we covet our neighbors’ leaves in the fall. And, yes, I am also a leaf looter. Who’s going to notice? Do you think everybody on your block counts the leaves on their parkways and front lawns and categorizes them according to species to make sure that nobody poaches them? It’s more difficult to hack into a backyard, though you can often sneak in there during working hours if your neighbors have day jobs. Or at night if you practice stealth raking. (“Be vewy, vewy, quiet … I’m steawing weaves!”)

I have even been known to drag reluctant and sometimes wailing Christmas trees down the alley and into my yard, where they are dismembered to create – all together now – garden mulch. I do draw the line at breaking into people’s homes to appropriate their trees … but only because it’s too much work to remove the ornaments, wrap them in tissue paper to put in boxes, and neatly coil the light strings.

Let’s face it: a lot of folks will do anything to make their spouses, their kids, their parents, their dogs, their kitties or their clownfish happy.

For other people, and I guess that includes me, it’s all about the gardens. (“Who’s a good little garden? You are! Yes, you are! Yes, you are!”) Which means that some of us abdicate our ability to be rational when it comes to our tiny plots of vegetation. We want only the best for our babies, which is why we try to shield them from the harsh world beyond the fence – whether made of chain link, planks or half-dead arborvitaes.

For instance, I never let my garden play with asphalt parking lots. Some people think I’m prejudiced against asphalt, but I don’t let my gardens associate with concrete parking lots, either. Or dirt parking lots. Or grass parking lots. I guess the operative phrase here is “parking lots.” As I tell my garden, “You’ll never get anywhere in life if you let people run all over you.”

I will also brook no criticism of my garden within earshot of my plants. If you want to comment about why the hydrangea looks a little droopy (and the answer is because it wants to), kindly take that remark across the street and tell me there. Better yet, send me a text, which I will open while I’m on another block and away from prying peony eyes, if you catch my drift. And don’t you evah ask me if my Virginia bluebells are “a little slow to open” this year. None of my plants are “slow.” They are “deliberate.”

And, no, my garden did not infest your lawn with Creeping Charlie. My garden would never do that! And how dare you accuse my garden of sending “nasty seeds” into your yard, regardless of how many cup plant seedlings are springing up along your fence … and next to your garage … and in your containers … and in your gutters. Why don’t you slap a lawsuit on that scruffy native plant garden down the block, huh?

Anyway, it’s about time for the garden therapist

to get here. Don’t worry, nothing serious. Just a couple of minor insecurity issues, like early spring compaction and a little embarrassment about doggie and birdie poop. My garden will get over it. Won’t you, mon chou, mon bijou, mon joujou? Yes, you will! Yes, you will!

Do you mind? I’m talking to my garden.

Mike Nowak is an author, speaker, humorist, environmentalist, show host and entertainer. You can follow his exploits at mikenowak.net

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questions

What does it take to make a climbing hydrangea flower? Ours was planted 3 years ago and is growing energetically. It’s in a protected nook near the patio and gets very little direct sunlight, but doesn’t act sun starved. We gave it a shot of slow release fertilizer on planting, and once since. Somewhat inadvertently it gets plenty of water, since the hose spigot is nearby and leaks, but drainage does not seem to be the problem. It now fully occupies an 8-foot trellis but shows no interest in flowering. Is it youth, lack of sun, too much or too little fertilizer, bugs, lack of pruning or what? When do these plants bloom and what conditions do they like?

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?

What is the best way to dig up, clean and store gladiolus and dahlias? What are the little white sacs on glad bulbs?

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