questions, anyone? (or, careful what you ask.)
P EOPLE LIKE TO ASK ME QUESTIONS, GARDENING QUESTIONS. It’s been happening for a couple of decades, and lately, well, lately it’s getting worse (better?). More urgent, you might say, as in more urgent garden questions than ever. Take the recent case of April from Kansas, who found out about me from Marilyn from Kansas, who found out about me from…well, hmmm, where did she come from?
APRIL OF COAL CREEK FARM had this rooster, you see, and this 8-foot square of dirt beside her porch steps (left), and just needed a suggestion for one good shrub, the very right shrub, please Margaret, tell me what to plant there. Poor thing, I got her to dig up her whole front yard (and Walkin’ Charlie the rooster would have kept doing that for much less time and money). So be careful what you ask me for: Look how she ended up.
I AM A VETERAN answerer; my own sister, Marion, left (shown doing what she likes more than gardening), trained me well, in the bad old days when we didn’t talk much. Her “urgent garden questions,” left on my voicemail, were the bridge that she built to reunite us.
AND OF COURSE WHEN YOU LECTURE about gardening, which I have for years (and will next do this Sunday, July 26, at The Berkshire Museum in Massachusetts), you answer questions. When I was co-host of “Homegrown” on Sirius Satellite Radio for two years, I answered live questions twice a week for an hour or two at a time. And working for Martha, people figured I’d know everything, like Martha (after all, our names start with the same three letters, don’t they?).
YES, SO MANY QUESTIONS: There was a notable inquiry by email not long ago from Alicia in Portland (aka Posie Gets Cozy), who had (shall we say) a little “issue” with her potatoes. Things in her new garden had started off beautifully (left). Let Alicia tell you how it went (“how not to grow potatoes 101”), and meanwhile read a craft-and-beyond blog I never skip—hers—even though I don’t craft, exactly.
THERE WAS THAT QUESTION from Marilyn (left), or maybe Marilyn (the most amazing baker, as in: you need to cruise her blog for recipes, or for slightly unusual stories like one about her fear of pears) didn’t ask anything, but just gave me lots of recipes and tips and sent April over to do the questioning. I get dizzy sometimes.
THEN SHAUNA FROM SEATTLE (yes, the wildly popular famous Gluten-Free Girl, mother to gardener-in-the-making Little Bean; that’s them in the photo by Clare Barboza) wrote to tell me she’s growing lovage, with its celery-like flavor, and sorrel, which got me thinking where in the world my own lovage and sorrel had got to. I don’t even recall Shauna’s question, exactly…was it maybe about the pickles she was making?, hmmm…but the answer on this end was that I bought a new lovage and some sorrel seeds.
AND THEN CAME ONE who didn’t ask an urgent garden question, exactly, but in whom I saw a kinship of a different kind altogether, and wrote about her. When I happened on the blog of Jennifer Rae Atkins, called The Daily Mammal, I found another woman who, like me, wants to be studied up and ready to answer as many of the natural world’s questions as she can. The proboscis monkey to the left, by Jennifer, is one that doesn’t live here in the garden and make trouble. I may live in a Cabinet of Curiosities, but Jennifer lives with a mission: To draw every one of the earth’s 5,000 or so mammals, one day at a time. And it’s not her job; she just does it. Wow.
WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN? It means I love the internet, where there is connective tissue among all of us (whether we know it, or one another, yet). I’m even hosting a contest aimed at expressing that…but that’s another story.
Urgent garden questions are always welcome in comments (we’re closing in on 7,000 there so far!), or on the Urgent Garden Question Forums (where I hope you will help one another to answer questions, based on your own insights from experiments in your own yards).
You can email me, of course, but between Marilyn and April (oh, and Paige; I almost forgot that Paige asked stuff, too) and Alicia and Shauna and yes, my sister, Marion…the inbox spilleth over.
And besides, questions received in emails stay private—meaning the answers aren’t shared and that seems a shame, since we gardeners all tend to have the same issues over and over and over again, don’t we? So ask away: Anybody else have an urgent garden question?