Archive for Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The green thumb

January 9, 2008

By now, you have probably already made your 2008 resolutions, but add one more to the list: Resolve to share your love of gardening with at least one other person. If you are not a gardener, resolve to find someone who gardens to teach you about their talents. My parents always taught me to try something before I decided whether I liked it.

Several years ago, I met a man who wanted to learn how to grow plants. His question resonates in my mind: "You mean the packets of seed they sell at the store actually grow?" By the end of our conversation, he was off to purchase bean seeds to grow on his own.

Sharing your gardening talents is simple, and you should make gardening fun instead of being a chore. Look at the experience as a learning opportunity for you and the person you are teaching. Taking care of the yard and garden is work, but it is therapeutic and relaxing if you look at it that way.

Involve your children and grandchildren, even if it is only during a short visit. You are their mentor, and there is no better subject than nature. Keep it simple, and keep it fun.

If you don't have any young relatives of your own, adopt some (with their parents' permission). Allow the neighbor's child to help you plant the vegetable garden or transplant annual flowers this spring. The garden is a good place to learn how to accept imperfection, so let the rows be a little crooked and the flowers a little off-center. The plants will grow just the same.

Invite a friend over to help you deadhead flowers in exchange for a fresh arrangement. Rake leaves together and later share the compost that is produced. Vegetable gardens often produce more tomatoes and zucchini than most people can use themselves. Planting and sharing vegetables is another opportunity to share your gardening skills. A person who has not done these things on their own may be afraid to try.

Introduce the learner to the creatures that co-exist with plants in our gardens. Earthworms and insects abound in most gardens, and this can be an opportunity to talk about the way the insects and plants work together. Many plants rely on bees and butterflies to pollinate their flowers, and many insects use plants for food and shelter.

Remember to start small. Gardening may seem like a daunting task to someone who has never grown anything on their own.

My first garden after leaving my parents' house consisted of four large flowerpots full of tomatoes, peppers and basil. The flavors of the fresh produce were enough to inspire my then-roommates to have gardens of their own.

Empower your gardening student with other sources of information. Loan them books, magazines and articles. The Douglas County Extension Office at 2110 Harper St. has information on everything from apples to zelkovas (an ornamental tree). Libraries are great resources for gardening books. Garden centers are a vital source of plants and information. Recommend your favorite professionals for cumbersome lawn and landscape projects.

Teaching another person about gardening is truly about planting a seed.

Jennifer Smith is the Douglas County Extension AgentHorticulture. She can be reached at 843-7058 or smithjen@ksu.edu.

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