Publications (Paul's Blog)

July 9, 2010

WE’VE DONE IT BEFORE

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul Dowlearn @ 10:20 pm

And we can do it again. The last time our financial system crashed and we saw double digit unemployment rates that were comparable to today’s situations was known as The Great Depression. Most of us middle aged people grew up listening to stories from our parents and grandparents about how they survived this period of history. Having heard these accounts we find two things that were critical to the well being of our forefathers.

  The main things that created jobs and eventually got the financial sector back on its feet were government sponsored work programs like the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp) and WPA (Work Progress Administration). These programs not only provided income, food, and shelter for millions of Americans but also stimulated the economy as local businesses were paid to provide for the needs of these workers wherever they were sent. These types of programs were much more successful than welfare checks and soup kitchens. In my opinion, our present situation would be improved by implementing similar programs as opposed to government bailouts or “economic stimulus packages.” Let us not forget that what is borrowed must be paid back eventually. We cannot simply keep borrowing from the Chinese. We should instead use this historical example of putting good use to the assets we already possess. These civilian heroes of the Great Depression built roads, dams, and buildings that are still in use today. The work was accomplished using mainly hand tools and locally available materials.

  The other recurrent theme in surviving The Great Depression was self reliance. Small scale farms and gardens kept food on the table for many families that would have otherwise wound up on standing in the soup lines or on the government dole. This came about due to the fact that in the 1930’s there were still a great many people involved in small scale agriculture. Even those who had moved to the big cities to work industrial jobs were not far removed from the family farm.

  My own family history is a perfect example. My dad grew up on the family farm in Cuero, Texas. I remember that he often spoke of how poor they were. In fact, my dad came to associate farming with being poor. So much so that after WWII he went to college to become a professional, eventually earning a doctorate and retired as a professor at Midwestern State University. He never farmed or tended a vegetable garden again.

 Copy (8) of 023_23 My mother’s story was a little different. During the Depression, her parents owned a store in Denton, Texas with a soda fountain and small restaurant in back. Although they lived on an average city lot in town, my grandparent’s back yard was one big garden. Undoubtedly this was to help supply the restaurant with seasonal fruits and vegetables but I’m certain this also served the family well. My mom’s memories of those times were that they were able to make ends meet and fared better than most. Regardless, farming and gardening played a major role in the lives of both my parents. My dad may have been considered poor, but at least there was food on the table.

  That was then, and this is now. One major difference is that most of us today are at least one if not several generations removed from the family farm. Much of what was considered common knowledge in those days has been lost to a society that has become disconnected from the natural world. We live, work, and move about with heating and air conditioning everywhere we go. Our daily contact with Nature may be just the time it takes to go to the mailbox or drive to work. We have become spoiled by shopping malls and grocery stores that cater to our needs. Many of our children actually believe that all food comes from the grocery store and beyond that haven’t a clue. They also have grown up being constantly entertained by television, video games, cell phones, and so forth.

  One of the best ways to get reconnected with Nature, spend some quality time with the kids, and stretch that spending money is growing a vegetable garden. Gardening has many side benefits including physical and mental health. This comes not only from providing fresh, highly nutritional produce but also from the physical labor and satisfaction of seeing your efforts pay off. Besides the obvious savings on groceries, you just might find the cost of health care decreasing as the general health of your family increases. You know that old grind about diet and exercise is actually true.

  If our sales at the nursery are any indication, it seems a good part of the American public is catching on. Despite all the bad news concerning the economy this past year we sold more seed and vegetable transplants than ever before.

  Another venture we see on the increase is a growing (get the double meaning?) industry known as Community Supported Agriculture. These small but thriving businesses are exact replicas of the old family farms of days gone by with a new marketing strategy. The owners of the farm sell shares in advance for whatever vegetables they intend to produce. If the farm fares well, then the community that supports it has a greater share. If drought, floods, or some other malady strikes then the community suffers that loss along with the farmer. This not only eliminates the need for crop insurance but also gives the farmer good incentive to produce as much as they can. For instance, if crops need to be replanted due to an untimely freeze, the delivery dates get pushed back and the money to buy more seed is already in the bank.

  Because this produce is grown and consumed locally the cost of shipping, handling, and packaging is reduced so CSA farmers can compete price-wise with the mass produced fruits and vegetables sold at your local Megamart. CSA farmers grow organically so the health benefits are basically the same as if you grew it in your own back yard. In addition, most CSA farmers have regularly scheduled “farm days” so they can get to know their clients, perfect for getting the kids out for some fresh air.

  All of the CSA farmers I know are happy with this arrangement and most are expanding operations. In fact, CSA farmers say they do very little in the way of advertising. Most have all the clients they can handle by good reputation and word-of-mouth. The demand for CSA farming is huge. If you are one of the many people who have lost their job due to the failure of big business, you will not only create a job for yourself and others but also will find satisfaction in adding to the general wealth and welfare of your local area.

  If you have a job, then join a local CSA or consider growing what you can in your spare time. If you are a beginner then start small and work your way up. Just remember that the larger your family is, the larger your garden should be and the larger your harvest of health and happiness will be.

POWER TO THE PEOPLE

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul Dowlearn @ 10:18 pm

  I don’t recall just exactly who was first to use this phrase, but I have heard it quoted often enough. My generation has always sought to transfer power from those who abuse it and ideally empower the average person. Even though our generation has now come to power, many of us find our hopes and dreams have become somewhat less than what we expected back thirty or forty years ago. Oddly enough, rather than lamenting the fact that the world has not changed all that much, rather than protesting or joining some political activist group, some of us have begun to realize true power. It has been in the hands of the people all along.

  The greatest power does not come from elected officials. The greatest power does not come from our right to vote. While getting the right people in powerful positions and making well informed decisions at the voting booth is a huge help, we have to face the fact that significant change is slow to come through the political system. Revolution is not the answer either. History has shown that the new regime is likely to become just as corrupt as the former regime that was overthrown.

  The common denominator that gets people elected, fights wars, revolutions, and shapes popular opinion is wealth. Wealth comes from natural resources, real estate, agriculture, and/or the creation of goods and services. However, in order for wealth to exist, there must be a consumer. Without the end user or consumer, land, resources, and all goods and services have no cumulative value. Unless someone somewhere is willing to buy a gallon of gasoline then oil is merely a greasy substance. Unless someone is willing to donate to a political party, church, or non-profit organizations then spreading the word and gaining new converts just doesn’t get done very easily.

  Once the consumer realizes his/her importance regarding wealth and the people who wield the power that comes from it, then he/she no longer has to feel inadequate, helpless, or lacking a course of action. Without the individual consumer, the whole process comes to a grinding halt. The power of purchase can create positive change much faster than conventional politics. Simply changing our buying habits can have a profound effect, if enough of us choose to do so. History has proven this time and time again.

  If you don’t care for fast food franchises, Megamarts, the price of gasoline, or whatever, then don’t buy those products. Encourage your friends and neighbors to do likewise. Seek alternatives. Walk, ride a bike, or use public transportation. Shop at locally owned businesses. Discover your farmers markets. I f there are none in your area then start one up. Want a really good steak, pizza, or perhaps a fried pie? Go to the folks who make them from scratch. Every time you spend a dollar you have cast a vote for something and against corresponding alternatives.

  Think about it. Most of us have been witness to big franchises moving in to small towns and driving small business out. We can actually reverse this by not patronizing those businesses. It takes a lot of money to keep these big stores open. Do you miss that fresh coffee down at the local diner? How about the guy who could take an old pair of shoes and fix them? Not to mention the baker, local mechanic, or the lady who made dresses that fit perfectly. We can get them back. Vote for them by refusing to purchase inferior products and/or lousy service.

  Right now Nila and I are drinking fresh whole milk, eating fresh organic vegetables, and getting started on locally raised range fed beef. All of this is being delivered to us direct from the farmer or rancher that produces these products.  It has been a rare occurrence for either of us to catch a cold, the flu, or other communicable disease even though we meet the public on a daily basis. In fact, our attendance records prove that we are obviously healthier than the typical young folks who work for us. This is no accident. Healthy diet, exercise, and consistent sleeping habits make a big difference. My only complaint has been that we did not have access to these healthy foods sooner. This local market was created by consumer demand in our area. Without a doubt.

  Fed up with things in Washington D.C.? Send a message to Washington. It is not only unfair but downright un-American that our news media chooses to follow only Democrat and Republican campaigns. Why? Campaign contributions buy advertisements. Big business buys advertisement. This money insures that those candidates will get coverage on local and national news segments. Tired of the countless lobbies that continue to corrupt our Congressmen and Senators? Stop buying the products or services those lobbies represent. Without big profits, lobbyists cannot operate.

  How about those ridiculous interest rates charged by credit card companies? Credit cards are convenient but are not as safe to use as the companies would have us believe.  Truth is, we are not obligated to use credit cards at all. If the majority of us stop or even limit the use of credit then things will change in a hurry. Same story applies to banks, insurance companies, and investment firms. There is an enormous amount of money being made by companies doing nothing more than electronic transactions. All in the name of making it more convenient for consumers to do what we do best …………buy more stuff.

  In a nutshell, you and I are the final decision makers. We decide what we will purchase and what we are willing to invest in or donate money to. If you like something, then support it with your investment. Conversely, if you would like to change things then use your power to boycott. Never feel that you have no choice. Your purchasing power has helped make this economy and that same power inevitably will change it for better or for worse.

  Make your commitment to change things for the better. Whether your interest is in clean energy, education, or better health care, the process of change is in your hands. Pay attention to what you buy. Invest in what you believe in. Go out of your way to find and encourage locally owned businesses. Start one of your own. Support non-profit organizations that encourage sustainability. Get active among your friends, neighbors, community, state, and nationally by networking with like-minded groups and individuals.  Be aware that every dollar you spend does make a difference………..one way or the other. We have the power…….Use it.

PIONEER GARDENS

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul Dowlearn @ 10:08 pm

  During the mid 1800’s we saw the first permanent settlements of predominantly European peoples in North Texas. Most of these folks were buffalo hunters, cattle ranchers, or shopkeepers. All were gardeners. Survival was the name of the game. If you were going to raise a family you were going to raise crops and tend animals to feed them. Any excess could be sold or traded for other goods and services but survival of the family unit came first.

  THE YARD: If there was a grass lawn to be seen in North Texas, it would be surrounding the courthouse or possibly the local church. Pioneers did not have lawns, they had yards. The terms front yard and backyard are still common today. Most yards were kept by goats and/or chickens, guineas, ducks, or other fowl (hence the name, yard bird). Fences were built using pickets, wire, or dense vegetation (some used prickly pear) to keep these animals in and wild predators out.

  Most of our early settlers farmed and ranched from sunup until sundown. The very last thing they needed in their routine was something else to add to the list of chores. Water had to be carried in buckets from the nearest source. Some homesteads had wells or cisterns but many settlers simply relied on creeks, rivers, and natural springs. The idea of watering a lawn would seem ridiculous to these folks.

  One of the more interesting customs in yard culture was called the swept yard. Children old enough to walk were taught to gather broomweed and use it to sweep the ground clear of vegetation. Soon the ground would become so compacted that few seeds could germinate. This compacted soil would also shed water rather than absorb it so it would dry quickly after rain. This practice of sweeping yards lasted well into the 1930’s.

  Persistent vegetation was kept at bay using the axe, scythe, or double edged tool called a yo-yo (I’ve also heard it called “idiot stick”).

  THE GARDEN: Pioneers grew many of the same varieties of vegetables that we do today. Corn, beans, squash, okra, and black-eyed peas were summer staples with collard greens, turnip, onions, cabbage, and potatoes during the cool season. Oddly enough we find our much loved tomato missing from the pioneer garden. This tasty fruit did not become popular among vegetable gardeners until after the turn of the 20th century. Believe it or not, the fruit of the tomato was at one time believed to be poisonous by our European ancestors even though it had been eaten by Native Americans in South America for thousands of years.

  The pioneer garden not only contained vegetables but also included many herbs for spices and medicine. One could not simply go to a druggist or grocer and purchase spices or medicine. Seed saving was extremely important. It was common practice to save the finest ears of corn, the largest melons, squash, and etc. for next year’s garden. Seeds, bulbs, and roots of favored herbs were coveted by early settlers. These were passed down through generations and shared with neighbors.

  These are just a few examples of some of the vegetables, spices, and medicinal plants used by early settlers that are rarely seen in modern vegetable gardens.

Dandelion (taraxacum officianale) Brought by European settlers. Considered one of the most nutritious plants in the world. Wine was brewed from the flowers. All parts of the plant are edible.

Amaranth (amaranthus tricolor), (amaranthus cruentus) Eaten raw or cooked. Amaranth tea was used against dysentery. Seeds ground and used as flour.

Parsnip (pastinaca sativa) Root crop. Member of the carrot family.

Feverfew (Chrysanthemum parthenium) Treats high fever and nervousness. Insect repellant.

Horehound (marrubium vulgare) Popular candy of those days. Flavoring.

Mexican mint marigold (tagetes lucida) This is the yellow marigold your grandma told you would repel insects. The modern day bedding plant called marigold actually attracts insects (spider mites in particular). Mexican mint marigold produces licorice flavoring.

Flax (linum perenne) Stems produced fiber for linens. Seed is the source of lindseed oil.

Mullien (verbascum thaspus) Dye, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, astringent, candle wicks, padding, toilet paper, relief from coughs and lung ailments. A very useful plant.

  These and many other useful native and imported plants have all but been forgotten by modern gardeners. However they all can still be found in the wild, especially near old homesteads. Our European ancestors did utilize quite a few native plants. Pecans, grapes and wild plums are among the more obvious. Apparently the more refined palette caused our European settlers to reject many of the wild foods that were abundant and on which the Native Americans had subsisted for thousands of years. In short, nearly every plant found in the Rolling Plains and Cross Timbers has been used as food, fuel, fiber, or medicine. Here are just a few that were used by Indian and white folks as well.

Agarita (berberis trifoliata) Called “false holly” by pioneers. This evergreen shrub produces sweet red berries that were used in jams or jellies (often referred to as “agarita butter”).

Western Soapberry (sapindus drummondii) erroneously called “Chinaberry” or “China tree,” by both modern day locals and early settlers. Western soapberry was used in making soap. The seed were popular as buttons. The berries were also used to stun fish.

Rusty Blackhaw (viburnum rufidulum) Large shrub or small tree produces sweet berries that change color from pink, to purple, to black at respective stages of ripeness. The word “haw” meant berry in days gone by.

Wax Myrtle (myrica cerifera) Found mainly in Eastern and Southern Texas, the blue berries of this shrub were a source of wax. The leaves as well as berries were known to repel insects. ”Myrtle” is another archaic term that referred to a large shrub or bush.

Elderberry (sambucus nigra) Elderberries were highly prized by early settlers for wine, jelly, and eating fresh. Lately we have seen elderberry juice making a comeback as a health tonic. Oddly enough, the entire plant is poisonous as are the unripe berries. Dried leaves were used to repel insects.

ORNAMENTALS: Life was not all hard work and drudgery for our early settlers. In fact much was written about the natural beauty of the native landscape in various diaries and history books, beginning with 15th century Spanish explorers. God certainly favored Texas when he was passing out the color. Since our pioneers were expert gardeners it was an easy task to collect seed or dig some roots to brighten up the homestead.

  We also find that as more and more Europeans moved into North Texas there were more of their favorite plants brought from the old country and “back East.” Some of these survived well and still can be seen marking the spot where a cabin or sod house once stood. Roses, bearded iris, gladiolus, wisteria, forsythia, and flowering quince are a few of the popular varieties that have withstood the test of time and Texas weather.

BEING OBSERVANT

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul Dowlearn @ 9:56 pm

  True story: The fellow who invented Velcro got his idea from a cocklebur. No kidding!! From this simple observation came an idea that revolutionized the textile industry. Would that I had a nickel for every time I pulled a cocklebur from some unfortunate dog’s hair while the ungrateful beast whined and struggled against me. I never gave it a second thought but now I wonder what brilliant idea may come from observing a horse crippler, devil’s claw,……..perhaps tumbleweed?? Hmmmm…………

  I have been known to say, “What separates the Green Thumb from the Brown Thumb is mainly observation.” The Green Thumb observes his plants and therefore learns to respond while the Brown Thumb seeks some one-size-fits-all set of easy instructions then accepts failure. Green Thumb people experience plant death all the time. Really!! Just ask any you know. Difference is, the Green Thumb will learn from his failure instead of consigning himself to living life among the Brown Thumbs.

   Each year my wife Nila and I train new employees. One of the first things we show them is what a wilted plant looks like. Regardless of how bright these folks may be we have to make certain they know. Evergreens are a little trickier. Many will show just a slight discoloration or sometimes browning on the tips of needles or leaves. By the time these guys show obvious wilting it may already be too late. Using a finger as a “moisture meter” is also one of the first things we teach new employees. “When in doubt, water it,” is something we never say. When it gets down to it, no schedule or automatic system can beat a heads up employee with a set of eyeballs.

  The observant gardener quickly finds that too much or too little water produces similar symptoms as does various attacks from certain insects and disease. If a plant wilts even though water has been given then the gardener is prompted to look deeper to discern the cause. Too much water can kill just as certainly as too little. Root rots are typically lethal, having no cure that we know of other than allowing the plant to dry and perhaps doing some judicious pruning. The lesson learned is one of prevention. Knowing what not to do has great value.

  Gardeners are trained to react through well meaning books, magazine articles, seminars, TV programs, and radio shows. If we spot an insect, leaf spotting, or any foreign growth we are taught to run out to the garden center to find a cure. We also are taught to assume these things may cause our plants to die. In reality, the truly knowledgeable nursery professional will often as not recommend a change in watering habits or some other cultural technique rather than applying a spray or powder. Most of us have finally begun to understand disease or insect infestation as a symptom of poor health in general.   Therefore we now seek to treat the cause rather than the symptoms. That cause comes of the general heading of stress. Stress can come from many variables including poor soil, but the weather you’ve had lately ranks high among the usual culprits. The observant gardener learns to be proactive rather than reactive as they learn to preempt seasonal changes with good cultural habits like applying compost followed by a nice layer of mulch before hot dry weather (or cold dry weather) sets in.

  Sooner or later, the observant gardener will learn to simply let Nature run her course. Some of the most important lessons are learned by observing rather than reacting. Here is a personal example I like to relate. One spring many years ago I had stepped out the front door of the nursery to bask in the warm sun when I noticed our Red Cascade rose was heavily infested with aphids. The leaves were wet and shiny with aphid honeydew. My immediate thought was to go back inside and mix a soap spray or some other oily concoction to smother them. Then I thought about this being a perfect opportunity to observe. On the other hand, this rose is very visible to the general public and I certainly did not want it to look bad. That would set a poor example for sure. So even though I was apprehensive I held off with treatment. Sure enough, within a week I noticed a few adult ladybugs working the plant. They obviously laid eggs and soon their larvae were gobbling aphids by the thousands. Within two weeks the rose had recovered fully and it looked as if nothing had ever happened. What I learned was that if I could overcome my training to react and just observe, Mother Nature may show me a better way. Now I am appreciative of all the time and money I have saved over the years by not spraying.

  Roses also taught me a valuable lesson concerning disease. That same Red Cascade and my other antique roses will show some black spot (diplocarpon rosea) during periods of high humidity. I have never treated for black spot because I had learned long ago that the disease will run its course when drier weather sets in. In my part of Texas, dry weather is usually not too far away, Houston is a different story. Furthermore I have observed that the plant will shed infected leaves whether they are treated or not. This holds true of al fungal leaf diseases. Once a leaf has been compromised, it will never become viable again. The plant simply sheds the damaged leaf and grows a new one.

 A couple of years ago I had a situation where an overzealous employee sprayed our entire container grown roses because they had become infected with black spot. Despite the good intent of the employee, the spray (Neem oil, I believe) was mixed a bit too strong or was applied when the air temperature was too warm. As a result, the oil smothered all of the leaves causing complete defoliation of the roses. It took the better part of a month for them to regenerate new leaves and we lost sales. Here is a good example where the cure was actually worse than the disease.

  An observant gardener can learn many lessons in Nature by making comparisons. Even though plants and people are vastly different in physiology we can draw some basic correlations. For instance, if we spend enough time outdoors we will be attacked by various insects. Although a source of discomfort, these are considered more a nuisance rather than life threatening. We also survive many episodes of disease in our lifetime. Once again, most are not life threatening and we generally get well without having to resort to any kind of treatment. From this one can easily surmise that the same must be true in the plant kingdom. Most insect and disease attacks are not fatal. Nature provides the means for plants to continue to thrive in spite of these setbacks. The reality of this should cause us all to be more concerned with healthy soil and healthy plants instead of seeking to treat disease or kill insects.

  Any time we take a plant out of its natural habitat we are placing it in a stressful situation. Any time we attempt to grow a plant well beyond its normal range we can expect stress at times. Any time we breed a plant back into itself, for whatever reason, we run the risk of losing valuable genetic traits which, in turn, makes the plant more susceptible to stress.

  It is no wonder that vegetable gardeners have to constantly battle the local climate, insects, and disease. All of the plants we are using are hybrids and none are actually native to our local environment. Only by using open pollinated varieties and saving seed year after year can we finally fine tune our vegetables to our particular soils and climate. Fact is, very few gardeners do this anymore but it is likely that your grandparents did.

  The challenge for the gardener is to understand the needs of the plant then try to create the right environment for that plant. Nature created plants for all situations from cool and wet to hot and dry. Sure, those violets will suffer against a west wall in full sun, but they may thrive under that tree or around on the north side of the house. If you don’t have a clue and can’t find a good source of reference then plant some in different locations and observe for yourself.

  If your thumb is not as green as you would like then perhaps you just need to spend more time in the garden. Most of us don’t spend enough time outdoors anyway. It has been proven time and again that gardening is a great stress reliever. Nature will reveal her many secrets to you in a personal way that will have much greater meaning than any information you may gather from other sources. All you must do is find the time, be observant, and Nature will show you the rest.

MAY…BE

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul Dowlearn @ 9:49 pm

  The month of May marks the beginning of the planting season for lawn grasses. May is also a good time for heat loving annuals and flowering perennials. However May is generally not a good time to install new trees, shrubs, or cool season plants since the hot dry summer is right around the corner. Summer is very stressful on tender new plants and, generally, the time we see new plantings fail. Unfortunately May is the month that plant sales reach their peak at the nursery. This has happened every year at our nursery in Wichita Falls as far back as our records go.  So May……be, we need to study this yearly phenomenon.

  The month of May is the most colorful of all as many cool season plants are still blooming while the summer bloomers are beginning to kick in. Spring is in full swing and all concern over late freezes are past (even for us in North Texas, but May….be still some concern for folks in the Panhandle). May is usually a high rainfall month but not always. Temperatures in May average in the mild 80’s but some serious heat can begin by late May. We have recorded high temps up to records of 110’s by the third week of May. May can be a very good time to plant given “normal” conditions but May….be not.

  Given the fact that timely rainfall is so important to the success or failure of any gardening venture, it would be nice if we could predict weather with more accuracy. Truthfully though, the only thing that is actually predictable is that Texas weather is unpredictable. For example, our highest monthly rainfall came in August this past year. In 2007 it came in July. Normally these are low rainfall months. Both of these atypical summer rains came from single events that dumped 6” and 8” amounts in our local area. This caused flooding and erosion which was not good for people or plants but did look good on the monthly average, lake levels, and yearly totals.  This is how reliance on averages can be misleading. That May rainfall average could happen in just one or two good rains. May…….be

  So with the exception of lawn grasses and other plants mentioned above May could very well turn out to be a poor choice for most landscaping projects. A more reliable time to install new landscaping would be in the fall.  More specifically, as soon as hot weather subsides and Fall rains begin.  At this point your new plants can enjoy cooler weather as they bounce back from transplant shock and begin to establish themselves. What rain does fall will not evaporate so quickly. Yes, we have seen winter harsh enough to kill young transplants in Texas, but not so often as we see brutally hot, typically dry summers as the true killer. Fall planting stacks the odds in your favor.

  Now you May…be questioning why a guy like me would want to cause concern for potential customers during his most lucrative month. The honest answer is, “Thai’s my job.” One thing that your local family owned nursery and landscape folks have always had over the Megamarts is expertise. Plain and simple. Even though the person at the Megamart garden center may have some background training in horticulture or in fact be a certified nurseryman, they are beholden to their company to sell a one-size-fits-all culture. Furthermore, you will likely never see the guy from the Megamart drop by your home to check on your landscape. That just isn’t in their job description.

  Those of us who do have the expertise to sell the right plants and promote sales in the optimum season don’t have the advertising budget to compete with these huge chain stores. Their advertising and marketing people spend millions every year to study our habits and purchasing patterns. They know it’s easy to sell plants in spring. Unfortunately their message is heard constantly in all the mass media. Everything is on sale!!!!………..All the time! This is exactly why so many of us in the industry will welcome any opportunity to speak to local non-profit groups, hold seminars, demonstrations, sponsor local gardening events, and write for local newspapers and magazines like the one you are reading.  Even though we are destined to lose the advertising battle, we can still get our message across on the local level. May……be

  Spring is and always will be a human condition. There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing a bit of gardening. I think it is essential for us to commune with Nature when the weather is pleasant. There are plenty of plants that love heat and are appropriate to plant in May. The big ticket items like trees and shrubs can still be planted in May and on through the summer to be sure. If we happen to get timely rainfall in May and June or even July then we reap the benefit. Just bear in mind that the heat of summer is on the way so don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you do have some major plantings in your immediate future and you can afford to wait then you will be wise to postpone until the worst of summer has past.  That typically is September or May…be October in some years.

  My numbers should peg in that September/October time frame. My hope is that some day they will. Our records do indicate that fall sales are on the increase. This means the message is getting out to some of you. Gardening is for certain a twelve month affair in our part of the country. There is always something to do and things you can plant in every season. Too many good nursery owners find themselves hanging by a thread every winter, waiting for that spring rush. Too many good employees have to be laid off. Too many local nurseries have had to close down because of this “Rich in the spring, poor in the winter” cycle that I believe is perpetuated by the mass merchandising industry. Their intent to cash in on spring sales has strengthened the myth that everything must be planted in April and May. Well ………..May…..be for some plants but not for all.

  Go ahead and celebrate spring. Do so as an informed gardener. Share your knowledge. Support your local family owned nurseries. We are there for you in all seasons, not just May….be.

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