Gardeners get a bargain

By Jane Young

Haywood County Master Gardeners had you in mind when they wrote The Gardener’s Guide to Growing in the Mountains. This latest edition of the garden almanac addresses the Western North Carolina gardener’s concerns with elevation, weather, soils, slopes, and a host of other influences on our gardening success.

And if you, like me, are a gardener who tends to over-plan and over-plant, struggling to stay on top of it all, you need this almanac. It hangs on the wall like a calendar, and each month’s page tells you what you need to be doing now. For instance, in February you should prune your roses before they leaf out. It’s also time to start seeds indoors for a spring crop of cabbage, broccoli, and kale. And there is still time to plant shrubs and trees when the ground is not frozen.

The almanac’s monthly ‘To-Do’ list is organized according to Flowers, Vegetables, Fruits, Shrubs and Trees, Lawns, and Miscellaneous. Even its format lessens that overwhelmed feeling when so much needs to be done in the garden.

This publication is easy on the eye throughout, but its page-long monthly lessons are substantial in their topics and coverage. Newcomers to the area will appreciate the discussion on questions to ask and to answer before starting to landscape a slope with an unfamiliar elevation. Illustrated directions in “Plant a Tree” and “Pruning Basics” give us all more confidence approaching these projects.

“Landscaping with Native Plants” is timely as more gardeners are concerned for the entire ecosystem surrounding us in these mountains. We’re also told how to water our gardens adequately without wasting water. “Lawn Care: Going Greener” helps us figure out what to do to maintain a lawn without harming water and air quality, and how to avoid over-use of fertilizers and insecticides.

Mountain gardeners learn right away that we share our space with birds, bats, bees, butterflies, and wild mammals that urban dwellers rarely see. “Landscaping for Wildlife: 10 Tips,” tells us precisely what we can do to support this magical community.

On a gloomier note, “The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid” gives basic information on how a tiny insect creates such devastation in our forests. You’ll find recommendations for controlling the loss of hemlocks on your property.

Nearly every page of the almanac has blurbs helpful to both new and seasoned gardeners. These aren’t the quirky tidbits that typically liven up a farmer’s almanac; they are sound, practical tips for the everyday gardener who is still learning. Short pieces on mulching, factoring in soil temperature, hardening off transplants, nurturing earthworms, identifying lady beetle larva and other useful topics—all have the voice of real gardeners, the kind with calloused hands and bib overalls.

If you use the web, you will appreciate the almanac’s detailed, step-by-step directions on “How to Get More Information on Gardening Topics.” You’ll be amazed at how much good, research-based information N.C. State University makes available to us.

You can get The Gardener’s Guide to Growing in the Mountains at the Haywood County Extension Center, 589 Raccoon Road, across from the Mountain Research Station test farm. Price of the almanac is $5, just barely above production costs. It’s a bargain.

Jane Young is a Master Gardener Volunteer in Haywood County. For more information call the Haywood County Extension Center at 828.456.3575.

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