Propagating Garden Hints
I propose the following New Year's deal: Tell me your secrets. Give me a hint. A tip. A solid, proven shortcut. An ingenious end run around the gardening conventions. I want it wrapped as a cut-along-the-dotted-line coupon, to clip and save in my back pocket until it disintegrates from overuse. I expect it to give me the delicious feeling of having gotten away with something.
Just to clarify: no, I do not want, either in print, on the web, or in person, a lengthy tour of someone's rose garden in the south of France, put together with only $200,000 and a world famous landscape architect. I do not want a dried flower wreath or a garlic braid. I will thank you politely for a T-shirt emblazoned with Wildflowers of the Rockies, but I will never wear it. All I ask is a hint.
Last year, a wonderful hint was dropped in my lap by one Les Knudsen of Bloomington, Minnesota. Mr. Knudsen has spent a good many of his 80 years trying and discarding hints. (For instance, this hint about 'Roma' tomato: Don't bother with it. Its walls are thick, its flesh is mushy, and you can make better marinara sauce with a regular old eating tomato.) Here's what he said to do:
1. About a month before your last expected frost date, transplant the tomato seedlings you started in the basement right after Christmas.
Last summer, I followed the above steps and found them to be glitch-less. I told Mr. Knudsen. He replied with a tantalizing mention of a way to grow tomatoes upside down in a hanging drywall bucket, but I am still waiting for the particulars. While I wait, I will implement the theory of Hint Karma, which states that any proven hints broadcast with a generous spirit will be amply rewarded. In other words, for every hint you find useful, you should reciprocate with at least three, or risk an unpleasant time in the afterlife. What's in it for you?
The sum of my hands-on gardening knowledge
There. Now you do your part. I'm waiting.
If you don't have a hint, don't sweat it. I could always use another pair of sharp clippers.
Robin Chotzinoff is the author of People with Dirty Hands (Harcourt Brace, 1997).