The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Musings from a Thankful Gardener

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
Extension Educator, Horticulture
slmason@illinois.edu

Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Cotton Bowl. Just about every commodity has its own bowl. Avid football followers may have scratched their cheeseheads or appropriate faunal hats (gator, tiger, wolverine, or razorback) with the recent TV listing of "The Dust Bowl". The appropriate gear for this bowl was goggles and a respirator. The Dust Bowl is the story of abused soil. Maybe it's time for a Soil Bowl? Soil has just never conjured the glitz and glamour of a rose or an orange, even though without it there would be no rose, orange, sugar or cotton.

As I reflect on giving thanks (prompted by the season and several hours of viewing "The Dust Bowl") great soil is at the top of my list. Thanks to glaciers and prairie plants, we gardeners in Central Illinois inherited great soil. Now it's our job not to screw it up.

How do we ruin soils? We till when the soil is too wet. We till too often. Check out next week's column for - how not to screw up your soil.

As a gardener I am thankful for many things. I am thankful that I can look into the eye of a flower and see the beauty of the whole world. I am thankful for wild places and for people who passionately work to keep them wild. I'm thankful that malodourous manure becomes the sweet black gold of compost. I'm thankful that I get to work with some of the most giving people in the world - gardeners.

A few entries in a gardening gratitude journal:

· the first frost in fall so we can quit watering the zucchini

· that bears and rattlesnakes are not on our list of garden pests

· that eating machines called caterpillars miraculously turn into exquisite flights of fanciful butterflies

· creeping Charlie makes my lawn look lush and green…from far away

· garden failures that give us a chance to learn and a reason to buy another plant

· security that we don't feel the need to carry a gun when we garden

· the four seasons of gardening: spring - hurry and get it planted; summer – water, weed and harvest; fall - more planting, more weeding and more harvesting; and winter - finally time to rest, reminisce and plan next year's "do over"

· that we share the planet with plenty of other insane gardeners so we don't look quite so crazy

· plants that continue to thrive despite our neglect

· the continuing sense of inspiration when we commune with a 200 year old oak

· the opportunity to see a living 200 year old oak tree

· that many plants did survive this year's heat and drought

· plants listed as "not eaten by rabbits and deer"

· the ongoing discovery of the true list of which plants are "not eaten by rabbits and deer"

· tomatoes that still produce something edible despite sharing their space with three-foot tall weeds

· spring flowers that magically appear after a long cold winter

· the taste of the first home grown strawberry of the season

· the taste of the last home grown tomato of the season

· roses continuing to bloom in November

· the freedom to grow vegetables because we want to, not because we have to

· the optimistic attitude that next year will be better

· and the selective memory to weed out the mental bad stuff from this year

Join other thankful gardeners in the Master Gardener Program. Training in Champaign, Ford, Iroquois and Vermilion counties starts the end of January 2013 in Champaign and in Danville, but applications are due November 28, 2012. Check out our web site for more information and to apply online http://web.extension.illinois.edu/cfiv/ Questions? Contact me at slmason@illinois.edu or 217.333.7672.

Check with your local county UI Extension for opportunities. http://web.extension.illinois.edu/mg/

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