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Marion's UpBeet Gardener
Newsletter has been
replaced by Marion's blog
which you can find at:
It took a visit from my friend Carol to remind me to lighten up. Carol
Sturgulewski, (that's STIR-guh-LOOSE-key), fellow co-author of Chicken
Soup for the Gardener's Soul, moved away a few years ago. I cried
a little, but fortunately, she stayed in Alaska.
Carol, who thinks nothing of carrying 20 pounds of freshed-picked salmonberries
as carry-on luggage, missed that year's berry season that summer, but
she returned that fall for a visit. This time by invitation of the Kodiak
Chamber of Commerce to autograph copies of "Kodiak, Alaska's Emerald
Isle," the beautiful, coffee table book she authored, and in which I have
a couple dozen photographs published. (The book is available by calling
the chamber office at 907-486-5557 or at www.kodiak.org).
Over a meal of fresh king crab, late season garden greens and olive bread,
we caught up on events, which always makes me laugh. For example, one
morning, Carol drove her 6-year-old son Hugh, to school. They were late,
and in a rush Hugh grabbed what he thought was his brown bag lunch, pulled
the van door closed behind him and bolted toward the school's main entrance.
Around noon, Carol received a phone call from the school's office. Would
she stop by to a real lunch for Hugh? The bottle of Merlot wine
just wouldn't do.
Carol, by the way, is is working on another book, a collection of stories
about raising kids in Alaska. Funny? Your ribs will burst with laughter
if her emailed samplers are any indication of the book's contents.
After dinner, she handed me a small, square piece of paper torn from a
daily calendar called "The Book Lover's Calendar" (Workman Publishing
www.pageaday.com). Each day features
a different book.
The title for Sunday, June 22, 2003 read," Gardening for Guys," followed
by, "If you've never considered gardening to be a high-testosterone pasttime,
think again. Gardening gives guys a chance to play with loud, dangerous
power tools, such as chain saws and lawn mowers, and provides them with
an excuse to walk around the yard carrying a machete."
"In a Man's Garden," the blurb continues, "Warren Schultz visits
15 guys who have wrestled their own little piece of heaven out of the
wilderness. There's the guy whose topiary is just a little suggestive,
and the gardener who's dragged massive columns and sculptures into his
garden. And only a guy would feel the need to grow the biggest pumpkins,
plant the longest borders, or cram the greatest number of palm trees into
a 60-by-150-foot lot."
With her signature smile and wink, Carol added, "I looked
it up on Amazon,
but the list price was 40 dollars. I didn't buy the book, but had to show
you this review."
That night, I got to thinking about what I could write about in future
columns. Since it was fall, the best time to get your garden ready for
next spring, articles beg for topics such as compost and mulch techniques,
how to plant bulbs, clean lawn mowers and overwinter geraniums.
But what about the fun stuff, I thought. Gardening isn't just seeds,
dirt, and passing soil tests. Just for grins, I consulted A Gardener's
Bouquet of Quotations, by Maria Polushkin Robbins. Turning to the
chapter, "Gardening Is
" I found Louse and James Bush-Brown's definition
"Gardening is a craft, a science, and an art. To practice it well requires
the enthusiasm of the true amateur and the understanding of the true student."
Well, that provides about as much enthusiasm as a cheerleading squad wrapped
in duct tape. And it would cause any gardener wanna-be to throw in the
trowel. I turned the pages, searching for something to tickle my Achilles
"Gardening is a matter of your enthusiasm holding up until your back gets
used to it." Someone by the name of Anonymous wrote that. We're getting
warmer, but we're not quite there.
The next morning, I checked my email. While weeding through spam, updates
from family and friends, requests for gardening advice and -- what's this?
A note from Scotland? Even though the internet has shrunk the planet,
it's always a treat to get mail from other longitudes.
Marion," it began. "I have been visiting your site with great interest
for a while now. Thank goodness for your sensible advice for gardening
in northern parts, I am in the north of Scotland and have many of the
meteorological challenges that you face, wind, rain, cold, etc. (but no
"Your list of 163 materials for the compost
bin is really useful but perhaps I can add another. A British organic
gardening writer, Bob Flowerdew [was this guy for real?] , swears by peeing
on his compost saying that urine acts as an accelerator. Actually he refers
to it rather delicately as 'recycling his cider and beer.' This isn't
so easy for us women but I do encourage my husband to provide the goods!
One for the list?"
The message ended with, "Many thanks for all your ideas and beautiful
photographs, Jean Bell."
Wow, the Scots DO have a sense of humor! I tell students in my "Compost
Happens -- How to make and use compost" class
that farmers and gardeners around the world collect human urine and add
it to their compost pile. Most animal manure has urine mixed in it. Urine
contains mostly urea, and naturally-formed urea is one of the oldest,
safest (it's sterile) and free sources of nitrogen. Non-chemical urea
breaks down fast in the soil and in the compost pile. Human urea has an
impressive N:P:K (Nitrogen:Phosphorus:Potassium) ratio of 45-0-0.
Back to "gardening for guys" and my new goal to weave humor with how-to's
in my weekly columns. How can you stay too serious with friends like Carol
and Marianne Binetti? Marianne gave a keynote address at the 2003 Master
Gardener conference in Port Townsend, Washington. She keeps deer out of
her vegetable patch by using a very simple and very effective method.
Oh, yes. Her teenage son gladly helps out.
Marianne claims you don't need to buy bottles of deer-proof stuff, which
is simply predator urine, such as fox urine. "First," she says, "invite
your son's basketball team over to the house. Serve them all the Gatorade
they can drink. Then, tell them to go outside and 'mark the territory.'"
Does it work? You bet your six-pack it does.