Gardening grit: Flowers out in full force
The green-thumbs in the neighborhood soon will turn shades of brown and black as gardeners gear up for one of the most gritty-good times of the year -- the time to pick and plant, to get down and dirty.
The green-thumbs in the neighborhood soon will turn shades of brown and black as gardeners gear up for one of the most gritty-good times of the year - the time to pick and plant, to get down and dirty.
"People are just so passionate about their flowers," said Kay Buckalew, plant manager at Hardware Hank in East Grand Forks. "I think it's because it means spring is finally here and winter is over. They love the color. We're a farming community, and people love to dig in the dirt."
Buckalew and husband Craig Buckalew recently sold their East Grand Forks store to their son, Brandon, but they still own the Hardware Hank in Crookston, and Kay continues to help her son out at the local store, where she also runs the gardening side.
"Business has been surprisingly good considering how early it is in the season," she said.
People were waiting in line last weekend to get their Mother's Day hanging baskets, and they were picking up everything else, too.
"People just got so excited about spring being here. If they found what they were looking for, they bought it," Buckalew said.
Mother's Day and the Memorial Day holiday right around the corner always are two of the biggest days of the season for the greenhouse.
"People do a wonderful job decorating for Memorial Day around here. The cemeteries look the best I've ever seen," Buckalew said. "They put out those lights that glow in the night and flags and everything. People do a really nice job."
Tips on care
Buckalew said there are tricks to keeping those plants looking nice both at the cemetery and when they must come home again later.
Decorative glass water bulbs and pretty bird drippers can help even the most novice gardeners grow perky, healthy flowers.
Another modern product - polymer crystals sprinkled in the soil at root level - can work their magic all summer long, Buckalew said. The crystals absorb water, swell into tiny globules and then gradually release that moisture into the soil. The makers of Soil Moist brand say it can cut waterings by half, reduce transplant shock and soil compaction and stay effective in the soil as long as five years.
That's definitely a plus, but most gardeners would be happy if it just took care of things long enough for them to escape to the lake for a weekend of fishing.
Buckalew said regular doses of fertilizer also will extend the blooming habits of flowers. She warns that gardeners need to be careful to use the proper kind of fertilizer, though. High-nitrogen fertilizer, the kind used for lawns, is not recommended. The nitrogen promotes green growth rather than blooms.
Whether it's annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs or vegetable plants, Buckalew said this early in the season gardeners also need to be careful to watch the weather. Generally, the guide is to get your gardens in about the time of Memorial Day weekend. By then, nighttime temperatures usually are safe.
Until then, Buckalew said tender plants require a little TLC. Pansies and petunias can take the colder temperatures, but the fussy few are "coleus, sweet potato vine and impatiens."
On the vegetable side, tomatoes, peppers and vine crops are the most tender. They should be covered if temps go below 40 degrees, she said.
Cemetery rules on Memorial Day flowers
The weeks on either side of Memorial Day weekend often are the busiest time of the year for local cemeteries.
Robin Purcell, administrator of the Grand Forks Cemetery Association, says groundskeepers have been out in full force getting everything trimmed and prepared at Memorial Park Cemetery at the corner of Columbia Road and Gateway Drive, along with Memorial Park South at 32nd Avenue South and South Washington Street.
Saturday is the first day families are allowed to bend the rules a bit for flower and plant memorials at the two local cemeteries.
"We want to allow families to keep decorations on their family lots. If it's only a couple of days during the Memorial Day weekend, it just seems like that's not enough time," Purcell said. "We wanted families to be able to have things there for their loved ones for a longer period, so years ago we came up with this policy."
The policy calls for more lenient rules - potted plants, stick flowers, tripods, shepherd's hooks, artificial flowers "right in the grass where the grave is" - from the Saturday a week before Memorial Day weekend to a week after Memorial Day. This year that day is June 5.
Purcell says the reason the special decorations must be removed by that date is so workers can resume regular mowing. It becomes too difficult to keep the lawns looking nice if mowers must maneuver around the various memorial decorations.
Other memorial guidelines are in place during other parts of the year, Purcell said.
East Grand Forks
Resurrection Cemetery in East Grand Forks also has special rules for Memorial Day flowers. Website rules state that plants, artificial wreaths and decorations are permitted for Memorial Day. They may be placed on the grave after 4 p.m. the Friday before Memorial Day and must be removed before the Wednesday after the holiday.