One of the most positive outcomes from the 2020 pandemic has been an uptake in gardening. It’s inspiring to read about 20-somethings wanting to put in a vegetable plot. Most have friends who already tried a hand at the seed-in-the-ground thing, that under proper care, produces tomatoes, cucumbers or peppers. Getting started is not always taught from home, however.

If there’s no gardening tradition, how do college-aged kids get started, and who can help? If they are fortunate enough to have grandparents, that’s usually a good starting point. Area garden columnists such as The Forum’s Don Kinzler (NDSU Extension-Cass County agent) and The Jamestown Sun’s garden editor John Zvirovski (vice president of the board of directors at the Northern Plains Botanic Gardens) give excellent advice on seasonal changes and needs in the garden.

Zvirovski has written about his summer growing experiences and subjects of interest to both new gardeners as well as seasoned. His help with plant problems has benefitted many of our city’s gardeners. It’s such a pleasure to read about his successes and failures, the solutions he’s tried, and what did and didn’t work. Drought conditions over last winter wiped out many a would-be success story and we all learned from it.

With so little water over summer, it kept every gardener on tippy-toes trying to work in moisture whenever possible. Late August and early September rains turned some otherwise bleak lawns into green carpets. Spring will be back next year and decisions for starting seeds awaits. Do you spend all that time, space and money on seed/plants that failed this year, or do you try again for 2022 without reassurance there will be rain? That’s a question every garden-enthusiast asks him or herself every year.

One “back-to-the-earth” magazine recommends rain barrels and gives some great instructions preparing them for catching and dispensing water all summer. But ya have to have rain first for that to work. Another online site suggests saving gray-water (used water from the kitchen sink and bathtub). But getting it to the yard from inside the house is always more chore than apparent value. Fish lovers have aquariums that, like river water, offer a natural source of fertilizer as well as water. Again, buckets of water are heavy and not easily hoisted outside, especially when we have snow.

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According to some weather prognosticators (Farmers’ Almanac and an antiquated Ouija board), we’re in for a “colder than usual winter … longer and earlier than normal.” Well, we had frost very early last September so that was early. We can always shovel what snow we get nearer the garden beds for 2022 spring melt. Mulch and compost look to be the best long-lasting moisture-holding alternatives.

Newbie gardeners give us “old-timers” a fresh breath of air. They remind us how important it is to go back to the basics before mindlessly veering off on a new path jbecause everybody else is planting that new cultivar. The tried and true are reliable foundations in the garden and confirm the reasons we grow those sweet, fresh tomatoes.

Whether first-timer or old-timer, keep abreast of garden columnists and extension agency weather and plant recommendations. They are local and know their stuff.

To read more columns of Sharon Cox's columns, click here.

If anyone has an item for this column, please send it to Sharon Cox, PO Box 1559, Jamestown, ND 58402-1559.