There is a community of gardeners and it is everywhere around you. We find one another at parties, while walking the dog, on garden tours, at neighborhood gathering spots and at community gardens. We sometimes swap plants and cuttings, but mostly we share crucial bits of information gleaned from our varied experiences, knowledge we might never gain if we relied solely on books, magazines, websites and columns like this one. There really is no substitute for meeting and talking with fellow gardeners, regardless of whether they are more or less experienced than you, because all of our experiences are different.
One way to learn from fellow gardeners is through garden clubs and organized events: going on garden tours like the Parade of Community Gardens, talking with Master Gardeners at our local farmers’ markets, or by hosting a Blue Thumb Block Party with the assistance of the Alliance for Sustainability. See the sidebar for details about these events.
Another way to meet other gardeners is by stopping to talk when you see someone working in their garden. This can yield surprising bits of knowledge, sometimes addressing that elusive something that is the key to solving a persistant problem, or netting you a cutting or seeds of some plant you have been unable to locate elsewhere.
When weeding my front garden one evening recently, I was greeted by a neighbor out walking her dog. She wanted to commiserate about a common weed that is particularly troublesome, “those purple flowers that grow everywhere.”
“Creeping bellflower?” I offered. She spied a sample on the north side of my house and we confirmed that we were indeed talking about the same plant. We have both pulled and pulled and pulled it, and it just keeps coming back.
“It has a thick rhizome,” she informed me, having gained this knowledge through much digging in her own garden. “It’s the mother root, you have to get that to get rid of it.” I then recalled how on a recent bellflower-removal project of my own, I had encountered a thick white root that didn’t appear to be connected to the pesky flower, though it was surrounded by the thin runner roots by which the weed spreads so successfully. Her comment confirmed my suspicion that getting that main root—I’d call it a tap root: white, carrotlike and pencil-thick—was the key to stopping the weed from resprouting. And, indeed, more than a month after that effort, the bellflower has not resprouted in that particular spot, even though I left a stand of it nearby.
I’m constantly peering at gardens when I’m out riding my bike. One time I saw a woman sitting on her front step, aiming her hose up into the lilac bushes. I had read in Organic Gardening magazine that rinsing the leaves with water can reduce mildew spores, provided you do it early enough in the day for the leaves to dry before nightful. I wondered if she had read that same article, and if she was putting the technique into practice, so I stopped to ask her about it. Sure enough, that was exactly what she was doing, and she could tell me, from her firsthand experience, that she believed it really did help.
Another time I stopped to admire an ebullient front yard garden and spotted the gardener out puttering amongst her flowers. I wondered where she got the sweet little wild strawberries that dotted her landscape and she soon dug up a few specimens, placing them in plastic grocery bags for me to carry home on my bicycle.
That sort of interaction with other gardeners serves the same purpose that publishing in a peer-reviewed journal does for scientists. By sharing our experiences and observations—and sometimes plants—we come away with something that allows us to enjoy our own gardens more.
Parade of Community Gardens
Saturday, August 22,
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Forty community gardens from across the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota will be open for visitors, some featuring special activities during the tour. Details and maps available from Gardening Matters, www.gardeningmatters.org, 612-492-8964.
Host a Blue Thumb Block Party
The Alliance for Sustain-ability encourages neighbors to get together to learn about water-smart landscaping and garden and lawn maintenance during a drought. The Alliance will provide door-hanger flyers, handouts on water-smart landscaping, and Blue Thumb Yard Care pledge sheets, and Hennepin County Extension will send a master gardener to provide guidance and answer questions. For more information or to register an event, contact the Alliance for Sustainability at 612-331-1099, ext. 1, or visit them online at www.afors.org.
Master Gardeners at Your Local Farmers’ Market
Master Gardeners answer your garden questions, help identify what’s plaguing your plants (bring a sample to show them), or offer late-summer gardening tips at the following Southside markets:
Kingfield, 4325 Nicollet
Sundays, 9–1, through Oct. 11
Midtown, E. Lake St. &
22nd Ave. S.
Saturdays, 9–1, through Aug. 22
(The market continues through October.)
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