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The Bay Gardener by Dr. Francis Gouin

It’s a lesson for life

Children learn so much about life from working in the garden. Watching a seed germinate and develop into a plant, then watching that plant develop and produce flowers, fruits and more seeds teaches them the cycle of life. Sowing seeds of different crops and watching them develop into different shapes, flowers, fruits and vegetables teaches them that variability is as common in plants as it is in humans.

Early bloomers have been going wild; now’s the time to tame them

If you did not get a chance to prune your plants earlier this spring, you have a second opportunity, especially for pruning crabapple, cherry and shade trees. Pruning these trees now will lessen the heavy growth of suckers originating from the base of the plants and from around the large cuts you make to prune the plant to the desirable shape. After the tree has finished its first flush of growth in the spring, the food supply it has stored in the roots and in tissues surrounding the buds is nearly exhausted.

Are you guilty? Looking out from the window of my room at Heritage Harbor Rehabilitation Center, I see mountains of mulch suffocating the trees. The sight is enough to undo my promising rehab after falling off a ladder while cleaning gutters on May 13.     Over the 30 years I served as Extension Specialist in Ornamental Horticulture with statewide responsibilities, I concluded that most problems associated with landscapes were related to over-mulching.

But I have no pity for pruners who butcher this beautiful summer-flowering species

I am appalled at the way homeowners are pruning their crape myrtles. I can only explain it as Monkey See Monkey Do. Just because you see somebody else — even landscape maintenance companies — cutting crape myrtle like dock pilings, it does not mean that they know what they are doing.

If you can’t kill this prolific weed, you can eat it

If chickweed is a problem in your yard, you are not heeding my advice. Follow my two precepts — have your soil tested and cut your grass tall while letting it fall — and you will eventually conquer chickweed.     Chickweed is a winter annual weed, meaning that the seeds start germinating in September, and the seedlings grow slowly all winter. By the first day of spring, the foliage is bright green. The plants grow no taller than an inch or two, producing a carpet of growth clinging to the ground.

I was raised in the garden

My mother had three flower gardens, and my dad cared for the vegetable garden when we lived in Laconia, New Hampshire. The garden between the sidewalk and the foundation of the house was approximately two feet wide and 15 feet long. Here mother planted annuals that she started from seeds on the sun porch using discarded egg cartons. As the seedlings grew she transplanted them into Dixie cups that she rescued from the trash bin following church dinners. Petunias were her favorite followed by zinnias and large marigolds.

 From low places to high

Governor Martin and First Lady Katie O’Malley may not be aware that in 1985 I tried to convince the gardeners in charge of the state properties in Annapolis to apply compost to the turf. The idea was met with great resistance because the gardeners thought it would take too much time, and they did not believe it would improve the turf.     We’d already been turned down in higher places.

We need its reminders more than ever

I was involved in the very first Earth Day, and I remain a strong supporter of its goals.

If you want to start your garden right, learn what your soil needs for plants to thrive

Why are you so hesitant to have your soil tested?     Now that spring is here, interest in gardening is on the rise. No matter where I go, people approach me with gardening problems. Most are directly associated with nutrient deficiencies in their soils.

If I can leave my garden long enough to launch my boats

The Bay Gardener has difficulty deciding which is more relaxing, spending days in the garden, spending hours sailing his 24-foot MacGregor swing-keel boat, building boats or resurrecting an old boat or tractor.