Thursday, April 2, 2009


Plant seed potato at least 4 inches deep. You can plant deeper but the shoot will take longer to work its way through.


Plant garlic when the clove will be exposed to several days of temperatures under 65 degrees to encourage bulb formation.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Listening to the radio on my way to work this morning, I heard a phrase I'd never heard before:

"There are some crocuses in the lawn"

The person was talking about how in the midst of this recession, there are a few pieces of good news.
I believe that the reference here is how crocus will bloom in early Spring even with snow on the ground.

Snow = recession
crocus = good news in spite of recession.

I wonder how many other sayings of this nature there are. I can only think of a few right now:

"Growing like a weed"
"Every rose has its thorn"
"Stop and smell the roses"
"Don't be a pansy"

and my favorite quote from the movie "Toombstone":

"I'll be your Huckleberry"

By the way, I was curious as to the origins of this last phrase and this is what I found in
World Wide Words:

"What it means is easy enough. To be one’s huckleberry — usually as the phrase I’m your huckleberry — is to be just the right person for a given job, or a willing executor of some commission. Where it comes from needs a bit more explaining.

First a bit of botanical history. When European settlers arrived in the New World, they found several plants that provided small, dark-coloured sweet berries. They reminded them of the English bilberry and similar fruits and they gave them one of the dialect terms they knew for them, hurtleberry, whose origin is unknown (though some say it has something to do with hurt, from the bruised colour of the berries; a related British dialect form is whortleberry). Very early on — at the latest 1670 — this was corrupted to huckleberry.

As huckleberries are small, dark and rather insignificant, in the early part of the nineteenth century the word became a synonym for something humble or minor, or a tiny amount. An example from 1832: “He was within a huckleberry of being smothered to death”. Later on it came to mean somebody inconsequential. Mark Twain borrowed some aspects of these ideas to name his famous character, Huckleberry Finn. His idea, as he told an interviewer in 1895, was to establish that he was a boy “of lower extraction or degree” than Tom Sawyer.

Also around the 1830s, we see the same idea of something small being elaborated and bombasted in the way so typical of the period to make the comparison a huckleberry to a persimmon, the persimmon being so much larger that it immediately establishes the image of something tiny against something substantial. There’s also a huckleberry over one’s persimmon, something just a little bit beyond one’s reach or abilities; an example is in David Crockett: His Life and Adventures by John S C Abbott, of 1874: “This was a hard business on me, for I could just barely write my own name. But to do this, and write the warrants too, was at least a huckleberry over my persimmon”.

Quite how I’m your huckleberry came out of all that with the sense of the man for the job isn’t obvious. It seems that the word came to be given as a mark of affection or comradeship to one’s partner or sidekick. There is often an identification of oneself as a willing helper or assistant about it, as here in True to Himself, by Edward Stratemeyer, dated 1900: “ ‘I will pay you for whatever you do for me.’ ‘Then I’m your huckleberry. Who are you and what do you want to know?’ ”. Despite the obvious associations, it doesn’t seem to derive directly from Mark Twain’s books."

Monday, March 30, 2009

USDA Hardiness Map

When I started growing plants 6 years ago, I saw the USDA Hardiness Zones map as gospel. Now, I see it for what it is; just another tool to help me along.
There was (or there will be) a press announcement soon, heralding the NEW USDA Hardiness Zones map.
Apparently, with global warming and what not, we need a new one. Not that I needed a press conference to tell me that.
I mean, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), I liven in hardiness zone 6a. This means that the lowest temperature possible where I live, falls between -10 degrees Fahrenheit and -5 degrees Fahrenheit.
The thing is, I can't remember the last time temperatures got that low.
So I went searching for temperature logs. I quickly found out that those are for sale and I did not want to pay.
I can however, find tables that record the average temperatures for my area and according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ( the average low temperature in January for my area is in the low 20's F.
the Accuweather website ( gave me a free sample of record low temperatures for February and they say that the last time the temperature dipped to -7 degrees F. in my area was back in 1996.
And I am not the only one complaining about the map. The people at Arbor Day ( contend that my area is now zone 7.
The folks over at say that the map is only accurate for the Eastern US:

"...and in the rest of the country (west of the 100th meridian, which runs roughly through the middle of North and South Dakota and down through Texas west of Laredo), the USDA map fails. "

This, they say, it's due to the mountains and Pacific ocean climates. They give as an example, Oregon and Arizona, both of which have Zone 8 parts but have vastly different climates.

It does help to have an agreed-upon point of reference but take it only as a starting point. I think is more important to get to know your local climate really well and take note of changes. Around here, we've had Armadillos for about a decade now. We did not have them in the 1980's, at least not in the numbers we have them now, and I read somewhere that time is running out for our great Cottonwood trees because Fall temperatures have risen.

Happy Gardening.